The Navy would like to sample drinking water wells near Ault Field at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island to test for certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS.
Property owners who drink water from a well on a property located within the sampling area may request sampling at either the open house, by calling 1-844-WHI-PFAS (1-844-944-7327) and leaving a message, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Appointments are currently being scheduled between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. from February 2nd to 9th (additional times available upon request). If your drinking water is provided by a public water system, the Navy does not need to sample your drinking water.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of thousands of different chemicals which have been widely used in industrial and consumer products since the 1950s. PFAS are man-made and have been used in many household and industrial products because of their stain- and water-repellent properties. PFAS are now present virtually everywhere in the world. The Department of Defense (DoD), including the Navy, have developed proactive policies to address past releases of PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), at installations nationwide.
The most common activity that could have resulted in the historical release of PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS to the environment at Navy installations is the use of firefighting foam (specifically, aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF) for testing, training, firefighting, and other life-saving emergency responses, or associated disposal practices. Because of this historical use, PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS have been detected in the groundwater on base and in nearby drinking water wells that are located in the direction that the groundwater flows away from the base.
Once these compounds are released, many of them tend to stay in the environment for a very long time. Although the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started the process to establish regulatory levels for several PFAS in drinking water, there are currently no Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory standards. The EPA has developed drinking water health advisories for a small number of PFAS; these advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory. The advisories provide technical information to states and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies. For now, the Navy is continuing to follow the policy it issued in June 2016 to conduct investigations at installations where there has been a known or suspected release of PFAS to the environment. The first priority with these investigations is to ensure that PFOA and PFOS concentrations in drinking water wells are not above 70 parts per trillion (ppt), individually or combined, as a result of Navy operations.
DoD, including the Navy, is moving toward complete removal of AFFF at its installations and transitioning to PFAS-free alternatives to AFFF. Until that transition is complete, the Navy will continue to use formulations that contain lower concentrations of PFOA and PFOS than many historical AFFF formulations and will continue to take steps to prevent or minimize additional release of firefighting foam to the environment.
On March 14, 2023, the EPA proposed a draft regulatory drinking water standard for certain PFAS, including PFOA and PFOS. In response, DoD has issued the following statement: "DoD respects and values the public comment process on this proposed nationwide drinking water rule and looks forward to the clarity that a final regulatory drinking water standard for PFAS will provide. In anticipation of the final standard that EPA expects to publish by the end of 2023, the DoD is assessing what actions DoD can take to be prepared to incorporate EPA’s final regulatory standard into our current cleanup process, such as reviewing our existing data and conducting additional sampling where necessary. In addition, DoD will incorporate nationwide PFAS cleanup guidance, issued by EPA and applicable to all owners and operators under the federal cleanup law, as to when to provide alternate water when PFAS are present." At this time, the Navy is authorized to use 70 ppt as an action level for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, whether individually or combined.
Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling near Ault Field at NAS Whidbey Island (Figure 1)
PFOA and PFOS have been detected in groundwater at Ault Field above 70 ppt. When a known or suspected release of PFAS is identified on a Navy installation and groundwater is used as drinking water, a sampling area is established 1 mile in the direction that groundwater flows away from a release area. The Navy offers sampling to all property owners whose property is within the sampling area and whose drinking water is supplied by groundwater.
Figure 1: Location Map of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island
At this time, the Navy is only asking to sample drinking water wells located in the sampling area (Figure 2) that have not been previously sampled by the Navy. Records indicate that some properties within the sampling area (Figure 2) are provided drinking water by public water systems. Property owners should contact their public water systems with any questions regarding treatment and testing of publicly provided drinking water. If your drinking water well was previously sampled by the Navy, if your drinking water well is part of the Navy’s twice-per-year PFAS drinking water sampling program, or if your drinking water is provided by a public water system, the Navy does not need to sample your drinking water at this time.
Actions Based on Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling Results
The preliminary results from the off-base drinking water sampling near Ault Field are expected approximately 30 days after collecting the samples. We provide notification to the property owners (and tenants, if possible) of their drinking water results and any follow-up actions, if needed.
The Navy will provide bottled water for drinking and cooking to any property in the sampling area with a drinking water well that contains PFOA and/or PFOS above 70 ppt and does not have an alternate drinking water source available. The Navy will continue to provide bottled water until a long-term solution is implemented.
2016-2019 Ault Field Off-Base Drinking Water Sampling
In November 2016, the Navy began sampling in the initial sampling area (Figure 2). The sampling area was established 1 mile in the estimated direction of groundwater flow from potential on-base PFAS release areas. In March 2017, June 2017, and again in January 2019, the Navy expanded the off-base drinking water sampling to the south and east of Ault Field based on detections of PFOA and/or PFOS above 70 ppt in the previous sampling area. Of the 154 off-base drinking water wells sampled to-date, PFOA and/or PFOS were not detected in 144 wells. PFOA and/or PFOS were detected below 70 ppt in 8 drinking water wells, and PFOA and/or PFOS were detected above 70 ppt in 2 drinking water wells.
Table 1 provides a summary of the results of the previous sampling. Table 2 presents the results of PFOA and PFOS, individually and combined; results are listed from lowest to highest detection of PFOA and PFOS (combined). In 2017, the Navy began sampling drinking water at certain properties twice per year, including properties with PFAS detections and those next to the two properties with PFOA and/or PFOS above 70 ppt in drinking water wells. Property owners served by the two drinking water wells were provided bottled water for drinking and cooking while a long-term solution was evaluated, and in 2021, the Navy replaced the drinking water well at one property and connected the second property to a public water system.
Figure 2: 2016-2023 Ault Field Sampling Area Results Summary
Identification of PFAS Releases at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island
Table 2. 2016-2023 Ault Field Off-Base Drinking Water Well Sampling Results
Across the country, the Navy has been conducting base-wide evaluations to identify potential PFAS releases. These evaluations are being conducted under the federal cleanup program which meets the requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Following CERCLA, the Navy’s installation-wide assessments are called Preliminary Assessments/Site Inspections, and their purpose is to verify, validate, and update the inventory of PFAS release areas on the installation for further investigation and potential cleanup.
If you have any questions, please contact one of the Public Affairs Officers listed below.
In 2018, a Preliminary Assessment (PA) was completed for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Ault Field (including Area 6 Landfill), that identified 35 areas where releases of PFAS may have occurred and a Site Inspection (SI) is warranted. The Navy has completed the SIs for all 35 sites, and 27 of those sites are proceeding to the next step in the CERCLA process, the Remedial Investigation (RI). The purpose of an RI is to delineate the extent of PFAS and conduct human health and ecological risk assessments to determine if a remedial action is required. Final documents are under Ault Field On-Base PFAS Investigation Documents. More information will be added to this website as it is available.