Navy Introduces Toxins to Drinking Water, Then Expands Operations

(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout; Adapted: US Pacific Fleet)(Image: Lauren Walker / Truthout; Adapted: US Pacific Fleet)

Washington State’s Whidbey Island already has problems with inadequate water supplies. Located in Puget Sound, the residents have to face a long, dry summer with no aquifer replenishment and ongoing threats of saltwater intrusion.

But now they have to deal with the US Navy introducing toxic chemicals into Whidbey Island’s public and private wells, particularly in the area around the small town of Coupeville, where the Navy maintains a heavily used air strip to practice touch-and-go landings, among other exercises.

Cate Andrews is a member of Citizens for Ebeys Reserve (COER), a group of locals working to protect their land, homes and health from environmental and sound pollution from the US Navy. Andrews said some of the wells in Coupeville contain toxic chemicals from the Navy’s firefighting foam exercises at levels 400 percent over what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers acceptable.

“Residents are being provided bottled water by the Navy, but warned not to drink, cook or water their vegetable gardens,” Andrews told Truthout. “The Navy says, ‘Don’t worry about showering,’ but research has shown that these chemicals are transmitted through dermal absorption. Homes valued at over $1 million are unsalable, and people are trapped.”

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The chemicals, Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS) and Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), are perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), also called PFCs, and come from the AFFF firefighting foam used in training exercises at the Navy’s Outlying Landing Field (OLF) in Coupeville and Ault Field in Oak Harbor, the latter of which is at Naval Air Station Whidbey.

“They were found in the aquifer beneath the OLF airstrip in October of 2016 and are known to have migrated off-site to contaminate public and private drinking water,” Rick Abraham, who has worked on toxic pollution issues as a public interest advocate for 30 years,…

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