Read the full article by Ismail Turay Jr. (Dayton Daily News)

“Records show crews at the Dayton International Airport disposed of firefighting foam multiple times — including accidental spills — in recent years, discharges which followed guidelines in place at the time but which introduced PFAS chemicals into the environment.

The foam products contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ― or PFAS, a group of toxins common in industrial and other uses. They have been linked to cancer, and have become a local and national environmental concern.

Several miles from the airport testing site, drinking water wells at Aullwood Audubon Farm Discovery Center and surrounding Butler Twp. homes have been found to be contaminated with PFAS, and property owners are seeking answers to how this could have occurred.

Between 2014 and 2020, firefighters spilled or discharged the Federal Aviation Administration-mandated substance called aqueous film forming foam — also referred to as firefighting foam or AFFF — that’s used to extinguish jet fuel and other highly flammable liquid fires on airport grounds, according to city of Dayton documents that the newspaper obtained through a records request. The chemicals tend to seep into groundwater.

AFFF has about 50% PFAS by volume, meaning that each discharge is ‘highly, highly concentrated,’ said Abinash Agrawal, a Wright State University earth science professor and groundwater expert. In addition, AFFF dissolves in water easily, and can move quickly through the soil to reach the groundwater, he said. So it’s likely that the toxins used at the airport migrated to Butler Twp., and contaminated the wells there, he said.

The Dayton Daily News Path Forward project digs into solutions to the biggest issues facing our community, including the safety and sustainability of our drinking water.

The city of Dayton, which operates the airport, said there’s no correlation between the use of firefighting foam at the airport and the toxins detected in nearby communities. The city, however, has two separate lawsuits pending against PFAS manufacturers and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Department of Defense, in part because it claims the base’s use of firefighting foam contaminated a well field used by the city of Dayton to supply drinking water.

‘Unfortunately, PFAS is pervasive in our society, and was used in food products, septic systems and numerous other industrial applications,’ the city said in a statement. ‘It is our understanding that the Ohio EPA has not determined the source of the PFAS contamination at Aullwood, and that an extensive study of the area’s geology and groundwater flow would be necessary to even begin to make this determination, especially with the numerous potential sources in the area.’

The Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health confirmed to the Daily News that they have not determined the source, nor has the state scheduled a study.

After high levels of PFAS were detected at Aullwood last year, The Ohio Department of Health sampled 49 wells in the surrounding community. The aim was to determine the severity of the problem and make recommendations on next steps and health risks to property owners. The purpose of the testing was not intended to determine the source of contamination, the agency said.

How dangerous are PFAS?

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that were developed in the 1940s. They are found in numerous industrial and consumer products such as carpeting, upholstery and food packaging. Manufacturing and processing facilities that use the substances in products, airports and military installations are partially responsible for releasing the chemicals into the air, soil and water, according the the U.S. EPA.

Most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS because the chemicals have been widely used for more than 80 years, the agency said.

Exposure to PFAS, dubbed forever chemicals because they’re considered chemically nearly indestructible, can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, increased cholesterol levels and changes in liver enzymes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The toxins can also cause decreased vaccine response in children, small decreases in infant birth weights and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.”…