PFAS Water Contamination Wurtsmith Air Force base (Oscoda), MichiganOctober 11, 2023
Vint Hill PFAS Contamination in Drinking WaterOctober 11, 2023
In 2018, the Army confirmed PFAS contamination at Picatinny Arsenal drinking water supply wells for PFAS, and two wells had high combined PFOS and PFOA of 88.5 ppt and 100.3 ppt. EPA recently changed the LHA for PFOS and PFOA from the previous combined levels of 70ng/L to 0.004 ppt for PFOS and 0.02 ppt for PFOA. Studies have linked PFOS and PFOA exposure to some adverse health effects, including reduced immunity, low response to vaccines, pregnancy-related problems, testicular cancer, and kidney, liver, and thyroid problems and cancer. According to the EPA, PFAS exposures close to zero might affect the health of specific demographics.
Soldiers, families, and civilians living at Picatinny Arsenal Army Base were potentially exposed to PFAS through drinking water, direct contact with aqueous firefighting foam, and inhalation. If you or your loved one suffers from a PFAS-related illness after living at the base, you could be eligible for compensation from the AFFF manufacturers. The US Department of Defense has used PFAS-based AFFF to put out class B fuel and chemical fires since the 1970s. PFAS in AFFF gradually leaches through the soil into underground water, which migrates into nearby downgradient wells. It is unknown how long these chemicals have been in the base groundwater wells or for how long those living in the base have been taking PFAS-contaminated water.
About Picatinny Arsenal
The 5,900-acre facility is located in Rockaway Township, Morris County, New Jersey, four miles northeast of Dover and 45 miles west of New York City. It was established as a storage and powder depot toward the end of the 19th century. The installation produced munitions for World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts. These weapons include explosives, rocket and munitions propellants, pyrotechnic signals and flares, fuzes, and metal components. Weapon production is gradually being replaced by research and development. The installation is now a Joint Center of Excellence for Armaments and Munitions, serving all military branches. It is also the headquarters for the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center and produces developing small caliber weapons and munitions.
The use and storage of AFFF at Picatinny Arsenal
Picatinny Fire Department stores AFFF and fire equipment and materials at Building 3321 storage warehouse. In 2018, the facility had one dozen 55-gallon drums and smaller closed containers of AFFF. About 10 gallons of AFFF leaked from one of the drums. AFFF is also stored in the Picatinny Fire Department firetrucks at Building 169 – Firehouse 1 and Building 3316 – Firehouse 2. AFFF has only been used for Picatinny Fire Department operations, including fire department training (arc training), equipment testing, and fire response activities. These activities are linked to the PFAS contamination witnessed on and off-base groundwater supplies.
Groundwater/drinking water sources at Picatinny
Picatinny Arsenal has three groundwater drinking water portable wells:
- Well 131 is the primary drinking water well. It is 196 ft deep and draws water from the glacial aquifer.
- Well 302D is for backup water supply. It is 403.5 feet deep and pumps water from the bedrock aquifer system.
- Well 410 has not been used for a while. It is 108 feet deep and draws water from the glacial aquifer system.
Groundwater from these wells is first pumped into the treatment plant’s surge tank, mixed with sodium hypochlorite, and filtered. Potassium permanganate may also be added depending on the quality of the influent water. In May 2018, following the establishment of PFAS contamination in the groundwater, the Army installed a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) System online to remove PFAS, including Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), and other others from the drinking water supply. The system comprises two vessels/contactors operated in a series. As per EPA regulations, quarterly sampling has been ongoing since 2019 to test contaminants in the drinking water.
After the GAC treatment, any remaining contaminants are removed through an air-stripping system, and from there, the water flows into a secondary surge tank, where it is disinfected with chlorine. The treatment plant can process about a million gallons of water per day.
PFAS Contamination at Picatinny Arsenal Drinking Water Supplies
March 2018 PFAS sampling identified PFAS in the water supply from Building 1383 Water Treatment Plant Point-of-Entry, which American Water operates. The PFAS in the treated drinking water were PFOS of 64 ng/L and PFOA of 11 ng/L.
In October 2018, untreated water from the portable wells was tested for PFAS. Portable Well 131 pre-treated water had PFOS of 68.9 ng/L and PFOA of 10.6 ng/L. Untreated water from portable well 302 D had PFOS of 68.7 ng/L and PFOA of 9.6ng/L. After treatment, no PFAS were detected from either portable wells. (with a limit of quantitation (LOQ) of 5.0 ng/L for both PFOS and PFOA). Also, no PFAS was detected on samples collected at the mid-treatment with granular activated carbon. The wells have been used to supply drinking water at the base for decades. It is also suspected that most of the contamination might have occurred due to leaking mains identified and repaired in 2008.
PFAS contamination at the base might have also impacted off-post groundwater wells and surface water resources by migrating ground and surface water. The affected off-post municipal well fields and drinking water reservoirs are located south and east of Picatinny Arsenal.
The May 2018 preliminary assessment identified areas of potential interest where PFAS-based AFFF was released (used or stored). These include:
- Wastewater Treatment Plants
- Fire Stations
- Former Firefighter Training Areas
- Chromium Plating Operations
- Historical Fire Response Areas
There are areas of potential PFAS release located upgradient or in the capture zone of on-post potable wells, which are likely to impact the on-base drinking water wells. They include Area 1222 – Gorge, Former Building 24 and Building 169 – Firehouse 1.
In September 2018, the Army conducted a pre-site investigation at Picatinny Arsenal to evaluate the potential for PFAS migration off-post on the Southern Boundary of the installation and establish the necessity of collecting groundwater samples from off-post private potable wells.
The investigation identified ten areas of potential interest and developed a drinking water pathway for each area of PFAS exposure. It was established that all the identified areas posed a potential threat to drinking water receptors. Areas of PFAS release impacting drinking water receptors located at the south include Building 169 – Firehouse 1, Former WWTP Facility, Post Farm Landfill, Former Pyrotechnic Area and Sanitary Landfill, Former Lower Burning Grounds, and Former Building 24.
Areas of potential PFAS release impacting drinking water receptors located off base to the eastern boundary are Building 3316 – Firehouse 2, Lawn to the North of Building 3409/3410, and Building 3801 –NJARNG Helipad Area.
PFAS tests on groundwater and surface water samples collected from the eastern and southern boundaries to evaluate the potential for PFAS to migrate off-post identified PFOS exceeding the EPA limits at both borders.
2018 Groundwater surface water and soil testing results at areas of PFAS release were as follows:
- Firehouse 1 groundwater – maximum PFOS concentration of 46ppt
- Firehouse 2 groundwater – PFOS of 50,000ppt and PFOA of 1,000ppt
- Former Area and Sanitary Landfill groundwater- PFOA of 70
- Former Lower Burning Grounds surface water had a PFOS concentration of 72ppt
- Area 1222 – Gorge- groundwater had PFOS of 83ppt
- Lawn to the North of Building 3409/3410- groundwater had PFOS of 200ppt and PFOA of 47ppt; and surface water PFOS of 4,100ppt and PFOA of 78ppt
- Former Building 24- groundwater had PFOS of 50ppt
- Post Farm Landfill- no PFAS were detected in groundwater, surface water, and soil samples
- Former WWTP Facility- surface water had PFOS of 56ppt
- NJARNG Helipad surface water had PFOS of 160 ppt
Sampling results for PFAS migration at the base boundaries:
- Eastern Boundary (Samples Representative of Groundwater from the East) had a PFOA concentration of 120ppt
- Eastern Boundary (Samples Downgradient of AOPIs) groundwater had PFOS of 42ppt, and surface water PFOS of 79 ppt
- Southern Boundary groundwater had PFOS of 300ppt, and surface water PFOS concentration was 130ppt
- No PFAS were detected at the Northern Boundary, Mid-Valley, and Off-Post Private Wells.
Exposure Pathways PFAS Contamination at Picatinny Arsenal
The 2021 Picatinny Arsenal PFAS investigation identified potential human receptors and exposure pathways for groundwater and surface water that could potentially be used for drinking water and possible soil and sediment exposure pathways. The results for exposure pathways were as follows:
- Soil exposure pathways at all the identified areas of potential PFAS release are potentially complete for on-installation site workers.
- Groundwater exposure pathways for on-post receptors are potentially complete at three areas of PFAS release: Area 1222 – Gorge, Former Building 24, and Firehouse 1. These areas are upgradient of or potentially impacting groundwater wells that provide the facility’s drinking water. The groundwater exposure pathways for on-post receptors are potentially complete at the remaining seven areas of PFAS release for potential future on-post users downgradient.
- Since there is no regulation on the groundwater use off-installation and downgradient of the installation, the groundwater exposure pathways for off-base receptors are potentially complete for all the areas of PFAS release.
- Recreational surface water users could contact PFAS in surface water and sediment through ingestion and skin contact. Thus, this exposure pathway is complete on-post and off-post.
File a PFAS Contamination at Picatinny Arsenal Lawsuit
If you lived at Picatinny Arsenal, you might have taken PFAS-contaminated water. Thousands of military service members affected by PFAS in AFFF and contaminated water are filing lawsuits against the PFAS-based AFFF manufacturers, seeking compensation for financial and non-financial losses. If you or a loved one is a victim of PFAS contamination, you could be eligible for compensation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.