Air Force expands treatment capabilities to address PFOS/PFOA

  • Published
  • By Linda Geissinger
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – The Air Force cut the ribbon July 23 on a new groundwater treatment plant that enhances its ability to protect drinking water supplies from contamination at the former Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire.
“This is a milestone that honors the Air Force’s commitment to address contaminants at military installations across the country,” said John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy.
Henderson, Portsmouth Mayor Jack Blalock, and EPA and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services officials cut the ribbon at the Airfield Interim Mitigation System groundwater treatment plant. The plant can treat up to 1 million gallons of water daily, and is part of the Air Force’s response to drinking water contamination at active, guard and closed installations. 
Managed by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, the plant addresses perfluorooctane sulfonate, PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, PFOA. These are synthetic fluorinated organic compounds used in many industrial and consumer products such as nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabric and carpet, some food packaging and in the aqueous film forming foam used by airmen to train and fight petroleum-based fires at the former base from 1970 until its closure in 1991.
“Its purpose is to protect drinking water,” said Roger Walton, AFCEC environmental coordinator for the former base. “It will intercept PFOS/PFOA contaminated groundwater above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory for drinking water flowing toward the Haven Well.”
The Air Force identified releases of firefighting foam from previous use and took action in 2014 to identify drinking water wells that had the contaminants above EPA’s provisional health advisory levels. The Air Force took immediate action to protect the local community by providing bottled water to impacted residents, and the City of Portsmouth shut down the Haven Well.
Henderson said this plant signifies the Air Force’s commitment to address PFOS/PFOA contamination in drinking water. He acknowledged all the response actions at the former base led by AFCEC’s Base Realignment and Closure Program Management Division, which is responsible for remediation and transfer of Air Force property affected by BRAC legislation.
“This is another significant accomplishment here at Pease,” said Henderson. “In March of 2018, we opened Site 8, just north of the former fire training area, to protect private drinking water supplies in Newington and now the AIMS plant will help us further address PFOS and PFOA.” 
Walton said the teamwork between AFCEC, EPA and NHDES was a key factor to the plant’s opening. 
“As today has demonstrated, we have multiple parties involved in this effort and many different perspectives to consider,” Walton said. “Bringing everyone together to mark this milestone underscores our responsibility to continue working together until the job is done.”