Airway Heights city officials issues an advisory warning residents not to use tap water for drinking or cooking as Chemical contaminants originating from Fairchild Air Force Base have been found in the city's drinking water wells. However, according to a joint statement released by the Air Force and city officials, the water "is safe for activities where water will not be ingested, such as bathing, doing laundry and washing dishes," stressing that the advisory was issued "out of an abundance of caution."
Residents have been supplied with packs of bottled water to meet their drinking and cooking requirements while the affected drinking water wells are flushed — which could take as long as ten days.
Industrial chemical contaminants known as perfluorinated chemicals (or more commonly as PFOS or PFOA), which were identified as hazardous contaminants by the EPA las year, were initially found in several private wells on the eastern side of Fairchild. The chemicals are thought to have originated from firefighting foam used on the Air Force base from 1970 through to last year for fire training exercises, and at two aircraft crash sites.
Fairchild city officials initially began testing groundwater samples collected from the base in February this year, and followed up by testing water samples outside the base at the beginning of April. They recently expanded their search for these contaminants to include areas further to the east and south of the Air Force Base, and found concerning levels of PFOS/PFOA contaminants in water from 17 or more wells. Out of four wells supplying Airway Heights' residents with drinking water, three were found to be contaminated.
According to Airway Heights mayor, Kevin Ritchey, the city will cease pumping water from the contaminated wells and link up with the water system supplying the city of Spokane, which is typically utilized during summer to help meet the extra demand for water during this period. The city has begun flushing affected wells to reduce the concentrations of the PFOS/PFOA chemicals to safer levels, and while this should take affect within 3-4 days, test results to confirm this will only be available later.
"The problem is the test results take about a week, so we're talking seven to 10 days to be completely sure" the contamination is reduced, Ritchey said.
According to the EPA, most of us have low levels of PFOS chemicals in our bodies due to exposure to these chemicals in everyday consumer products. However, scientific research has shown that high concentrations of these chemicals are associated with adverse health issues in animals.
"We care about the health and well-being of our families, neighbors and community partners, and we understand those impacted, or potentially impacted, by this emerging issue have legitimate concerns," Air Force Col. Ryan Samuelson said in the statement.
Officials are currently assessing alternative options for the city's water supply and are also considering installing water filtration systems onto wells affected by contamination. If you are affected by this or other water quality issues, you can be proactive and take measures to ensure your water is free from contaminants and safe to drink by investing in a good quality drinking water filter like a Berkey that is capable of removing harmful chemicals and other hazardous contaminants.