NARL – Barrow PFAS Drinking Water & Groundwater Investigation
Imikpuk Lake is near an Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) source area at the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) facility where AFFF use is documented. Imikpuk Lake used to be the primary drinking water source for the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation-NARL (UIC-NARL) facility. The UIC-NARL facility currently obtains drinking water from the Barrow Utilities and Electric Coop Inc (BUECI) water treatment plant, which uses the Isatkoak Reservoir as the drinking water source for the City of Utqiaġvik (Barrow). Water from Imikpuk Lake is periodically used as an alternate drinking water source by elders, hunters, and fishers in the area and, therefore, was sampled as part of the Navy’s effort to assess PFAS exposure in drinking water.
The Navy conducted surface water sampling at Imikpuk Lake in July 2017 near the NARL to determine whether PFAS were present at concentrations above the EPA lifetime health advisory (LHA). The results show that Imikpuk Lake water contains PFOS and PFOA above the EPA lifetime health advisory. Based on these results, it is not recommended to use Imikpuk Lake as a drinking or cooking water source at this time.
Our first priority was to determine if PFOS and/or PFOA were present in Imikpuk Lake above the EPA’s LHA. The Navy will complete an investigation to determine and assess the extent of contamination, evaluate the potential for risk, and develop appropriate response actions following federal and state environmental regulations and guidance.
Across the country, the Navy has been conducting base-wide evaluations to identify additional potential PFAS releases. These evaluations are being conducted under the Navy’s Environmental Restoration Program which meets the requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Following CERCLA, the Navy’s base-wide assessments are called preliminary assessments/site inspections, and their purpose is to verify, validate, and update the inventory of PFAS release sites aboard the installation for further investigation and cleanup.
At the former NARL, the Navy has completed Preliminary Assessment (PA) for all Navy owned property. The PA identified three sites at the Airstrip Area with potential PFAS releases. In 2019, a site inspection (SI) was conducted at each site to determine the presence or absence of PFAS in the soil and/or active zone water. The presence of PFAS was confirmed at two of the three sites at the Airstrip Area and those sites will proceed to a Remedial Investigation (RI). The purpose of a RI is to delineate the extent of PFAS and conduct human health and ecological risk assessments to determine if a remedial action is required. The RI work plans are under development; fieldwork is planned for 2022. In 2020, the Navy revised the PA to include formerly owned Navy sites in Barrow, and as a result, five formerly owned Navy sites were identified to proceed to SI. The SI work plans for the five sites are under development; fieldwork is planned in 2022. All final documents associated with the PFAS evaluation at former NARL are listed under “Documents” below. More information will be added to this website as it is available.