Local landowners, farmers, receive letter from NAS Lemoore regarding possible groundwater chemicals and cleanup actions

By The Leader Staff
An NAS Lemoore Navy Hornet  on the tarmac at the station's flight line.
An NAS Lemoore Navy Hornet on the tarmac at the station's flight line.

The Department of the Navy has notified Lemoore area landowners within at least one mile of Naval Air Station Lemoore that after sampling groundwater at the local air station, Department of the Navy officials have discovered that it may have released chemicals referred to as Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

The Navy detected Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), both of which belong to the PFAS family. "I am contacting you because the Department of the Navy sampled groundwater at Naval Air Station Lemoore where NASL activities may have released Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)," stated NAS Lemoore's Commanding Officer, Capt. Douglas Peterson, in his letter to local landowners who farm adjacent to the longtime Navy base.

Officials say that the chemicals are used in making fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Such coatings can be used in various products, including furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant, non-stick cooking surfaces, and electrical wire insulation.

There are some concerns, say Navy officials. Many PFAS may fail to break down in the environment, moving through soils and potentially contaminating drinking water sources. Other concerns are that PFAS can be found in rivers and lakes and in many types of animals on land and in the water. Exposure to PFAS could happen by using products that contain PFAS.

The Navy Department contacted all landowners, including those with agricultural operations, within one mile of NAS Lemoore. One contact included former Kings County Supervisor and West Hills College Lemoore professor Anthony Oliveira.

Peterson, the current commanding officer at NAS Lemoore, said that Navy officials sampled the groundwater recently at the local air base and detected Per-and Polyfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).

“The research shows that it has been found in many bases for many years,” said Oliveira. “The Lemoore Naval Air Station has been a good neighbor, and regardless of why the CO sent the letter, it is a good message to communicate and be transparent on matters like this,” he added.

Oliveira went on to suggest that responsible authorities must properly test the perimeter areas to see if it is moved out where it might be dangerous to the public or personnel on the base.

“The data I found and the letter establishes factually it is on the base and in the water below it – at least in certain areas,” he added.

He also said that the chemical is also used to put out fires and as a solvent against fuel and oils.

In his letter to adjacent landowners, Peterson said the Department of the Navy is “committed to addressing PFOS and PFOA and will follow the federal cleanup law, the Comprehensive Environmental response, compensation, and liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)

Peterson also said that PFOS and PFOA are part of a larger class of man-made chemicals known as PFAS and stated that scientists are still studying the health effects of exposure to PFAS, and they are the subject of increasing regulation worldwide.

He added that at this time, there are no established federal standards for PFAS in groundwater, livestock, food commodities, and drinking water or known federal restrictions for the sale of agricultural products that have been irrigated or watered with water containing PFAS.

“The Department of the Navy will work with you and the Department of Toxic Substances Control to share information on our ongoing efforts to ensure the protection of human health and the environment,” said Peterson.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others.

For example, perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) are two of the most widely used and studied chemicals in the PFAS group. PFOA and PFOS have been replaced in the United States with other PFAS in recent years, states the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its website.

The EPA’s website states that a common characteristic of PFAS is that many break down very slowly and can be built up in people, animals, and the environment over time. PFAS can be found in many places, including water, soil, air, food, and materials found in our homes or workplaces. People can also be exposed to PFAS in a variety of ways, including:

  • Working in occupations such as firefighting or chemicals manufacturing and processing.
  • Drinking water contaminated with PFAS
  • Eating certain foods that may contain PFAS, including fish.
  • Swallowing contaminated soil or dust.
  • Breathing air containing PFAS.
  • Using products made with PFAS or packaged in materials containing PFAS.

The EPA's basic approach to PFAS is focused on three central directives:

  1. Research: Investing in research to increase understanding of PFAS exposures and toxicities, human health and ecological effects, and effective interventions that incorporate the best available science.
  2. Restrict: Pursue a comprehensive approach to proactively prevent PFAS from entering air, land, and water at levels that can adversely impact human health and the environment.
  3. Remediate: Broaden and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination to protect human health and ecological systems.
For additional information, readers can visit the EPA’s website and read more about PFAS: https://www.epa.gov/pfas/our-current-understanding-human-health-and-environmental-risks-pfas
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