Latest Updates

From Col. O'Donnell, 366th Fighter Wing commander:

Tap water test results have confirmed our base water is safe to drink.  Our Civil Engineer Squadron has shut down the contaminated well indefinitely until they are able to determine an effective solution to filter out the contaminants.

Due to these findings, distribution of bottled water for pregnant or lactating women and bottle-fed infants will be discontinued immediately. I am happy that this issue has been resolved and remain committed to protecting the environment and our priority of ensuring human health and the safety of our Gunfighter community.

base information

What are Pfcs?

What you need to know

Affected Area Map ThumbnailA drinking water well contributing to the industrial side of the Mountain Home Air Force Base water system has levels of Perfluorooctane Sulfanate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Health Advisory Level.

Test results from drinking water samples taken in September at end-user points and within the water distribution system have confirmed that Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) levels were below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Health Advisory level of 70 parts per trillion, and is safe to drink.

Tap water samples taken after the contaminated well was shut down on Sept. 23 showed the Woodland Grove neighborhood, Child Development Center, Youth Center and Fitness Center were well below the health advisory level and limit of detection at 3 parts per trillion.

Town Hall Q&A

On Sept. 29, base leadership and subject matter experts held three town halls to provide information and answer questions from the base populace. Below are highlights from questions asked by audience members. The questions and answers have been consolidated and condensed to remove repetition and enhance clarity.
Collapse All Expand All
The reason we're giving priority for bottled water to pregnant or lactating mothers is due to the increased amount of water they consume compared to the rest of the base population. We do not expect an elderly person to have an increased concern. The health advisory is based on a lifetime of exposure. So, say an elderly person was on this base for fifty years, drinking the water. We know this chemical came up around the 1950s. You know they have just had more opportunity to be drinking more water with it in it, but not that they’re any more sensitive than the rest of the population.
PFCs cannot be removed from water by boiling. Certain treatments can remove PFCs from drinking water such as reverse osmosis, which can be installed under your sink and purchased at local home improvement stores. Carbon-based filters can also lower the amount of PFCs, but don't eliminated them completely. However, the contaminated well has been shut off and all PFC contaminated water from that source is expected to be out of the water distribution system by Sept. 28, 2016.
The water should not be an issue, but if you're concerned, running the tap for five minutes should flush any old water from pipes leading up to the tap.
That’s what we’re in the process of doing — we’re waiting for the lab results to come back for the tap water. When mixed with water from wells #2 and #12, the contaminated water from Well #4 made up less than 10 percent of water in the system. Despite the high PFC levels in Well #4, we expect that at the tap, it’s much lower. By Oct. 14, we should have lab result confirmation that it actually is low, and we’ll be able to update the base.
As an emerging contaminant, regulatory practices and testing frequency have not yet been established by the EPA. We conducted the recent tests at the request of the Department of Defense and Air Force. We are closely monitoring the contaminated wells and the affected water distribution system, and are working closely with experts at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and our own Environmental Flight to begin regularly scheduled testing.
Yes, because Well #4 itself is above the health advisory limits, we will keep it offline until we are able to filter or treat the water for PFCs.
The water in the base pool is supplied by the affected distribution system. However, PFCs do not easily enter the body through the skin. Bathing, swimming, and showering with water that has levels of PFCs above the health advisory values is safe as long as you avoid swallowing the water. Also, since the contaminated water from Well #4 made up less than 10 percent of the water from that distribution system, we expect that when we receive our tests back on Oct. 14, they will show that the tap water used to fill the pool was below the health advisory limit. If not, we will examine if we need to drain and refill the pool.
The affected well was shut-off Sept. 23, and the remaining water from that well left the distribution system within a few days. Even prior to the well being taken offline, when mixed with water from wells #2 and #12, the contaminated water from Well #4 made up less than 10 percent of water in the system. Despite the high PFC levels in Well #4, we expect that at the tap, it’s much lower. By Oct. 14, we should have lab result confirmation that it actually is low, and we’ll be able to update the base.
PFCs are a component of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a type of fire-fighting foam that has been used by industry and the Air Force since 1970 to extinguish petroleum fires. The Air Force has used this foam at crash sites, in fire training areas and some maintenance hangars at active, Reserve, Air National Guard and former bases. Previous fire training exercises in past decades were conducted in open, unlined pits as there was no reason to believe that AFFF contents were considered environmentally or medically unsafe. As of right now, there is currently no way of knowing exactly how long Well 4 has been contaminated with PFCs. Due to the nature of PFCs as an emerging contaminant, research is still being done into cleanup standards and health effects.
Fortunately, when fighting fires, firefighters use personal protective equipment. They’re protected from smoke inhalation which also protects them from ingesting the AFFF that they’re using. Since the primary way PFCs enter the body is through ingestion, the risk is relatively low.

General PFC faqs

Collapse All Expand All
We use many different manmade products in everyday life designed to improve quality and enhance safety. It has taken decades for us to identify and then study the cumulative effects of using these products. When we identify something that may impact the environment or health, we find ways to remove/replace the product and clean up its damage to the environment.

This event follows that pattern. Changes are already in progress to stop using/replace the products that contribute to PFOS and PFOA levels. Additionally, we've taken the affected water well offline and are coordinating for a material solution to restore that well.

Although the EPA has classified two PFCs, PFOS and PFOA, as contaminants of emerging concern, there are currently no published federal mandates regarding exposure levels nor have federal cleanup standards been established. The EPA has established health advisory concentrations of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA which the Air Force uses as a benchmark to determine if an investigation is needed.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center works closely with state and federal regulators to identify where PFOS and PFOA may have been released on an installation, assess the potential for human exposure and, when necessary, take action to protect human health and the environment.
Requests for environmental sampling for PFOS/PFOA by regulatory agency officials are addressed on a case-by-case basis. In cases where a specific local, state or federal regulation or agreement is driving the request, the installation must have reason to believe a release of PFOS/PFOA is possible based on past installation activities and be able to determine if an exposure pathway exists for the contamination to potentially threaten public health or migrate outside of installation boundaries. In the absence of a legal requirement, the Air Force will continue to follow Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) guidance in its systematic approach for addressing PFOS and PFOA Air Force-wide at targeted Air Force environmental sites.
The Air Force has identified approximately 200 installations (active, Reserve, Air National Guard and closed) where firefighting foam may have been released and is conducting investigations to confirm whether releases actually occurred. The Air Force is prioritizing investigations for firefighting foam releases which could potentially impact human health through drinking water, by considering such factors as potential pathways to drinking water, depth to groundwater and potential for contaminate to migrate off-base We have not completed the investigation process, so results are not yet available.
If groundwater is determined to have PFOS/PFOA concentrations above EPA health advisory levels, and there is a pathway to drinking water, the next step is to test drinking water supplies. If the concentrations in drinking water supplies are above health advisory levels, the Air Force will take immediate steps to provide alternate drinking water. Options include filtration, blending with clean water to get levels below health advisory levels, or changing to another supply source.
The Air Force is focused on three lines of effort to address perfluorinated compound contamination of drinking water supplies:
  • Identify: Researchers identify fire training areas, crash sites and areas at installations where fire suppression systems were installed. At locations where a release may have occurred, investigators conduct groundwater, surface water, soil and sediment sampling for verification. If pathways exist to drinking water sources, the Air Force will test public water systems and private wells.
  • Respond: Where PFOA or PFOS levels exceed health advisory levels in drinking water supplies, the Air Force will act immediately to provide alternate water sources. The Air Force will then identify and initiate a long-term solution to provide clean drinking water, which may include carbon filtration systems, plume migration control, land use control, etc.
  • Prevent: The Air Force is engaging with environmental regulators on long-term groundwater cleanup strategies in accordance with federally-mandated procedures under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In addition, the Air Force has discontinued use of AFFF for training purposes and will begin disposing of its existing stockpiles of PFOS-based foam and transitioning to a more environmentally sound formula in fiscal 2016. The Air Force is also evaluating the best approaches to reduce the risk of inadvertent discharges and ensure containment in hangar fire prevention systems.