China Lake clarifies: no contaminants in drinking water

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Following the circulation of a report that identified the discovery of water contaminants on 126 military bases, the Naval Air Weapons Station’s Public Affairs Office released a clarification announcing that China Lake’s drinking water is not affected.

According to an article published in the Military Times last week, the foam used to put out aircraft fires contains toxins that can potentially pollute water supplies.

“The water at or around 126 military installations contains potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds, which have been linked to cancers and development delays for fetuses and infants, the Pentagon has found.”

The findings of that report state that 36 sites have tested for contaminants in the on-base drinking water, with another 90 sites showing off-base drinking or groundwater contamination.

The military is reportedly working on developing a replacement for the fire-suppressing foam.

The statement from the NAWS Public Affairs Office said that China Lake’s drinking water wells are drilled to a depth of approximately 1,100 feet and water is pumped from a depth of 400-600 feet.

Officials performed dedicated testing for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) from October 2016 through April 2017, said the release.

“All drinking water wells tested negative for PFOS and PFOA,” read the statement.

“Pursuant to the PFOS and PFOA briefing of March 2018 referenced in the Military Times article and provided by the Deputy Assistant Security of Defense for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, NAWS China Lake is not listed as having any instances of PFOS or PFOA contamination in its drinking water system.”

The briefing shows that seven of 11 groundwater monitoring wells showed positive results for PFOS and PFOA. “These groundwater monitoring wells are not tied to the NAWS China Lake drinking water system, but are used to monitor levels of contamination in a known contaminated area.”

The contamination is at a depth of 20 feet atop a 200-foot thick impermeable geological formation, said the report. “The site is located 8.1 miles from the nearest drinking water well with no threat to the drinking water system.”

According to the report, DOD has spent $200 million studying and testing its water supply, as well as providing either filters, alternate wells or bottled water to address contamination.

For the groundwater sources both on-base and off-base, however, cleanup will take years to address, according to officials from the office of the secretary of defense.

The cost could add up to $27 billion to funding already identified for cleanup projects.

Story First Published: 2018-05-04