Few detailed answers from agencies on potential joint base water contamination
However, two drinking water wells in the base’s Hill system, which serves about 3,000 people on the Lakehurst portion, tested at 215 parts per trillion in December.
But a review of water pumping records by this news organization showed the two "backup" wells provided about 15 percent of water to the Hill system from 2007 to 2016.
From May 2014 to April 2015, records show the two contaminated wells supplied about three-quarters of the water in that system.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the arm of the CDC responsible for investigating potential toxic exposures at federal sites such as military bases, said in an email that it hasn’t looked at potential exposure to PFOA and PFOS “because we didn’t have the data to evaluate these contaminants.” After PFOA and PFOS contamination issues were found at a former military base in Warminster, Pennsylvania, the agency conducted a health assessment to determine that the perfluorinated chemicals posed a “public health hazard in the past.” Asked about doing a similar analysis at the joint base, the agency wrote that its “main role, currently, has been to provide health education related to (PFOS and PFOA) exposure.” On the state level, Health Department spokeswoman Nicole Kirgan said in an email: "The New Jersey Department of Health has not been involved with this site, as this is a federal Department of Defense site and falls under federal oversight."
Pumping records from the base showed the two contaminated wells were taken offline in November 2015 and not used again until they were tested for the chemicals in October 2016.
There is no indication why that happened.
David Kluesner, chief of public outreach for the EPA’s Region II office, wrote in an email: “At this time, it is unknown why the wells were taken out of service.” He also said the agency was working with the military, DEP and CDC to “evaluate all relevant information.” The base’s pumping records also showed the two contaminated wells were first sampled in October 2016, when they were pumping only a small amount of water.
Those tests showed no contamination.
Asked whether the DEP staff would review the pumping records to ensure proper testing, press officer Larry Hajna said in an email: “In general, any time a water system encounters an issue with elevated levels of contaminant for which there is no (legal limit), we recommend that the operator take steps to mitigate, such as using the well only if necessary and blending with other water.
Asked the same question about pumping records, the EPA’s Kluesner wrote, “Currently, the Air Force is investigating PFOA/PFOS contamination at the site, and all appropriate information, including the pumping records, will be considered in the evaluation.” When asked if it’s possible the chemicals may migrate from the closed wells to other area wells, he wrote, “The investigation of contamination at this site is in its early stages, and the focus is on determining if drinking water wells are impacted now.” Hajna did not answer that question for the DEP.