Fort Meade: Base Drinking Water Passes EPA Standards, Off-Base Contamination May Be Leaking Dangerous Toxin into Little Patuxent River

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The Department of Defense conducted grondwater sampling at Tipton Airport, a former U.S. Army property purchased by Anne Arundel County in 1999.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE – According to the recent Department of Defense report issued by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Environment, Safety & Occupational Health), all of Fort Meade’s drinking water well results were “non-detect” for Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).

In previous years, American Water, the installation’s water and wastewater services manager was not required to test for PFOS and PFOA while compiling data for their annual report.

These manmade chemicals, typically used as water or stain resistant coatings on everything from carpets to clothing, are considered “emerging contaminants” by the EPA and have not been part of their usual sampling. They were also used in aqueous fire fighting foam (AFFF); used at fire-training areas associated with aircraft operations. Last year, at the request of DoD, military installations around the world conducted tests for PFOS and PFOA.

“All of Fort Meade’s drinking water wells were tested,” said George Knight, Installation Restoration Program Manager. “All of the results indicate PFOS and PFOA are not detected in Fort Meade’s drinking water. The annual report issued by American Water indicates that our drinking water meets all State and Federal standards.”

Also in the report are the results of DoD-ordered tests from four off-post groundwater monitoring wells located on former DoD property. These wells, which were installed by the Army, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Maryland Department of the Environment and Anne Arundel County Department of Health, have been monitored annually since 1992.

These four groundwater monitoring wells are in close proximity to a former DoD fire-training area where AFFF was used and show shallow groundwater PFOS and PFOA levels over the EPA Life Health Advisory level of 70 ppt. Follow-up investigations are underway. The area is currently owned by Anne Arundel County and the site of the Tipton Airfield.

Analytical results in the HHA monitoring wells indicate that PFOS/PFOA may potentially be discharging to the adjacent Lower Patuxent River. There are no federal regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA) or national recommended ambient water quality criteria under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for PFOS/PFOA, nor are they included as analytes in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment Program, and they are not monitored in water as part of EPA’s National Aquatic Resource Surveys. 

While there are no federal regulations as of yet, the EPA offers stringent guidelines for water detected to contain greater than 70 parts per trillion of PFOS/PFOA. The chemicals are known to bioaccumulate in humans, animals, and the environment, and are resistant to standard remediation.

The EPA reports that PFOS/PFOA accumulate in the blood serum, kidney and liver, and they have the potential to have adverse human health including birth defects and prostrate, liver and testicular cancer.

According to a Fort Meade Fact Sheet on the groundwater sampling, two commercially owned active potable wells are within 0.5 miles of Tipton Airfield. The commercial owners are Bank Shot Grill and Casey’s Crab Company. The report says that the wells were not sampled because they are hydraulically separated from the contamination since shallow groundwater discharges into the Little Patuxent River and deeper aquifer groundwater flow is to the southeast.

Fort Meade water supplies are not drawn from the same water source as these monitoring wells. Additionally, these monitoring wells are not associated with the ongoing investigation the Army is conducting for tetrachloroethene (PCE)-impacted groundwater in Odenton.

Prior to 2014, an investigation/feasibility study found three groundwater contaminant plumes within the Lower Patapsco Aquifer (LPA) that extend beyond the Ft. Meade boundary and into an area beneath the town of Odenton. The identified contaminants were trichloroethene (TCE), tetrachloroethene (PCE) and carbon tetrachloroethene (CC14). To mitigate the impact on groundwater, a groundwater remediation system (GRS) was placed into service in March 2014. Off-post homes and businesses receiving their water from the Anne Arundel County public water supply are not impacted by PCE.

For more information on the off-post PFOS/PFOA groundwater sampling activities please refer to the “PFOS/PFOA in Groundwater Sampling Fact Sheet” located at: http://www.ftmeade.army.mil/directorates/dpw/environment/bracLegacy/index.html

Community members who would like to learn more about Fort Meade’s environmental restoration program are encouraged to attend the next Fort Meade Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting on Thursday, May 17, 2018, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Courtyard Marriott at 2700 Hercules Road, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701. RAB meetings are held to keep the public informed of Fort Meade’s environmental cleanup and restoration program and to provide opportunities for public involvement and open discussion. Members of the public and the media are invited to attend. Visit http://www.ftmeade.army.mil/directorates/dpw/environment (click on RAB link).

BACKGROUND

Fort George G. Meade, established in 1917, is the largest employer in the state of Maryland and with more than 55,000 employees, and is the second largest Army installation in the continental United States in terms of personnel. We are the home to all branches of military service; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard and serve as the home for 119 partner organizations including U. S. Cyber Command, the National Security Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Information School as well as federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Science Center.

For more about Fort Meade, visit www.ftmeade.army.mil.

This article is part of a series of crowd-sourced journalism by Arundel Patriot citizen investigators and journalists looking into water contamination in Anne Arundel County, the sources of the contamination and its potential for adverse effects on human and animal health and the environment. 

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