Eielson Air Force Base Investigates Potential Ground Water Contamination

Ground water contamination at Eielson Air Force Base may have spread off the facility. The Air Force has contacted private property owners in the nearby Moose Creek area offering to test well water for presence of a chemical presumed to be from firefighting foam formerly used at the base.

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Eric Breitenberger, a manager with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Contaminated sites program, says there’s already known to be extensive pollution at Eielson.

“There’s a fairly large groundwater plume of perflourinated compounds, and we know that it extends to the northern boundary of the base. We don’t know yet if it extends beyond the base boundary.”

Breitenberger says the Air Force previously abandoned some older base wells that tested in excess of an Environmental Protection Agency provisional health advisory level for  perflourinated compounds.

“The one in particular is called ‘P-FOSS’, perflouro octane sulfonate, and its an emerging contaminate, and what we mean by an emerging contaminate is that we have very limited data on toxicity, and particularly with regards to human health effects.  Most of the health effects we know about are based on animal studies.”

The studies show blood, liver and kidney effects. Breitenberger says firefighting suppression foams containing “P-FOSS” were used from 1970 to 2 thousand. He says perflourinated compounds are known to readily spread.

“These perflourinated compounds are very resistant to degradation. They last a long time in the groundwater, so te groundwater plumes can be very extensive.”

Breitenberger adds that perflourinated compounds are in a range of industrial and commercial products and have also been detected in ground water at other interior sites, including the Flint Hills North Pole Refinery, but not in excess of the advisory level. The DEC is over seeing the water testing of Moose Creek wells. Eielson is federal Superfund Site, regulated by the DEC and EPA. Eielson had no one available to comment Friday.