Water well field at Huffman Dam is operated by the City of Dayton. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Dayton not included in AF request to reimburse areas for tainted water

Three Air National Guard bases could get money from the plan.

Dayton isn’t included in an Air Force request to reimburse three communities for out of pocket costs caused by groundwater contamination that may have been caused by a firefighting foam contaminant, the service branch revealed on Friday.

The Air Force is asking congressional defense committees for money to reimburse communities near three Air National Guard bases. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is not part of the request.

Dayton had asked the Air Force last month for nearly $1 million in reimbursement costs for environmental studies prompted by concerns of tainted water migrating off the base.

RELATED: Dayton demands Wright-Patt act on groundwater concerns

In an interview this week, Undersecretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan told this news outlet the service branch had asked congressional committees for funds in a future defense authorization bill to reimburse communities for costs to deal with contaminants found in firefighting foam.

“We’ll take each base and each situation as a standalone,” he said in the interview. “We don’t think that there’s a one size (fits) all that’s going to be able to do this because different communities have different concerns and, of course, different situations.”

RELATED: Air Force to ask Congress to reimburse communities for water contamination

An Air Force spokeswoman clarified the statement Friday, saying the request would apply only to specific Air National Guard bases. The Air Force did not specify where those bases are.

Talks between the Air Force and the areas near the bases were halted when the Department of Defense launched a review to determine if those communities would qualify for reimbursement under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, according to Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews.

RELATED: Wright-Patt responds to Dayton demands to act more quickly on groundwater

The Air Force has cited a federal law — known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act — that the service branch says does not give it legal authority to retroactively reimburse communities paying to remedy contamination.

In cases where data shows the Air Force caused or added to contamination problems, state or local communities can seek reimbursement agreements under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, the Air Force says.

Dayton has sought reimbursement to study, track and test tainted groundwater it believes could migrate off Wright-Patterson and threaten the nearby Huffman Dam well field along the Mad River. The city shut down seven production drinking water wells at the site last April as a precaution. It says monitoring wells on the property have detected the contaminant, but at levels below the U.S. EPA health advisory threshold.

State, city and base officials say Dayton’s water remains safe to drink and the contaminant has not been detected in the final product sent to consumers.

RELATED: Is our drinking water safe? Chemical spills alarm protectors

Wright-Patterson officials have outlined a number of actions they’ve taken that they say show they’ve reacted quickly to concerns, from expanding a network of monitoring wells to constructing a $2.7 million water treatment plant to treat base drinking water.

The base plans to expand a network of groundwater monitoring wells this summer.

Dayton faces its own contamination issues at the city’s firefighting training site, and in April 2016 it shut down five drinking water production wells near the Mad River at the Tait’s Hill well field.

RELATED: Wright-Patt treating tainted water in contaminated drinking wells

The U.S. EPA has set a health advisory threat level of 70 parts per trillion for lifetime exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water. The substances have commonly been found in everyday products from cookware to food wrappers, but also in the firefighting foam.

The contamination, at certain levels, can cause major health concerns. According to the U.S. EPA, human epidemiology and animal testing studies indicate high-level exposure to the contaminant may lead to testicular and liver cancer; changes in cholesterol; low birth weight in newborns; liver tissue damage; and effects on the immune system and thyroid.

Dayton has about 200 drinking water wells tapped into the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, a 1.5 trillion gallon reservoir that serves about three million people.

RELATED: Is our water safe: Two vulnerable well fields shut down

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