Read the full article by Pat Elder (LA Progressive)

“The Army has revealed that two highly toxic chemicals, PFOS and PFOA were recently found in the groundwater at the old Fort Ord, near Salinas, California at 560 parts per trillion, (ppt), which is 8 times higher than the EPA’s advisory level of 70 ppt. The chemicals are known to contribute to testicular, liver, breast, and kidney cancers, as well as a host of childhood diseases and abnormalities in the developing fetus.

Although the base closed 26 years ago, the presence of the ‘forever chemical’ at these levels provides a wake-up call to the public in the region that PFAS is present at harmful levels in the ground. Customers of  California Water Service – Salinas should be especially cognizant of the potential for contamination.  Groundwater from the base is reported to move in a northeasterly direction toward Salinas while the town’s water supply is derived largely from groundwater.

No federal or state maximum contaminant levels for PFAS chemicals in drinking water have been established. In February, 2020, however, the California State Water Resources Control Board lowered its “Response Level” to 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS.  If a water system exceeds the response levels for these contaminants, the system is required to take the water source out of service or provide public notification within 30 days of the confirmed detection.  Previously, the response level was 70 ppt for the total concentration of the two contaminants combined. The groundwater at Fort Ord contained 113 ppt of PFOA and 447 ppt of PFOS.

Because of the new regulations water systems throughout the state have been required to either shut down drinking water wells or treat the water so it is deemed safe to drink.

People in the Seaside-Salinas area who drink from private wells should be careful not to drink water containing PFAS. Neither the federal government not the state  regulate well water.

A recent news story in the Monterey County Weekly omits the alarming analytical results while quoting a spokesperson for the Army saying there is little risk to public health from PFAS contamination at the base.  It is not surprising that the Army or its contractors would be downplaying the threat to public health posed by the Army’s use of toxic firefighting foams during firefighting drills and in overhead foam suppression systems for over twenty years at Fort Ord.

‘Fortunately, compared to other [Department of Defense] sites, the presence of PFAS is not that extensive,’ says William Collins, environmental coordinator of the military’s local Base Realignment and Closure office. ‘The chemicals were not frequently used here and not in large quantities.’

The paper provided a link to a 1,345-page draft report, by Ahtna Environmental, Inc., under a contract with the U.S. Army. A closer look at the report details wide use of the substances and a greater threat to public health than the public is led to believe.

Collins said, ‘Where we found PFAS, it is being removed’…”