Army requests to collect water samples around Fort Riley

Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 6:07 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Army is requesting to collect water samples around Fort Riley to test the quality of residents' drinking water.

Fort Riley says it is contacting owners of properties near Marshall Army Airfield to get permission to test the quality of their drinking water in wells on those properties. It said this is to determine if the wells may have been impacted due to Army operations.

According to Fort Riley, the testing will look for concentrations of Perfluorooctanoic acid and Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, parts of a larger group of chemical compounds known as per and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.

Fort Riley said PFAS are used in aqueous fill forming foam, a critical firefighting agent which is used to suppress petroleum fires at airports and military installations. It said AFFF has been used at Fort Riley.

According to the military base, PFAS are also found in many everyday products, like food packaging, cookware, carpet protectants and waterproofing chemicals.

Fort Riley said the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a health advisory establishing a threshold concentration of PFOS and PFOA for drinking water of 70 parts per trillion. It said its drinking water supply has been tested since 2013 for PFOS and PFOA and the highest concentrations found are 11 ppt.

According to Fort Riley, a site inspection on Fort Riley in 2020 already found that nine locations beneath Marshall Army Airfield with potential PFAS releases showed concentrations above 70 ppt in groundwater samples. It said this has led the Army to seek to test off-post drinking water wells that could be affected due to Army operations.

The Army said it follows the federal environment cleanup law, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as CERCLA. It said it also works closely with appropriate state and federal agencies where the Army has identified PFAS were potentially released into the environment.

According to Fort Riley, though drinking water on post does not have PFAS levels above the EPA’s health advisory level, the Army wants to ensure past practices have not affected groundwater that could be used as drinking water off the installation. It said the Army has contracted Arcadis, a private firm, to collect samples from wells and conduct the testing.

Fort Riley said test results will be shared with the EPA and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It said well owners will be notified individually of their results.

According to the military base, Fort Riley is contacting residents that will potentially be affected by mail. It said off-post sampling is expected to begin within the month. It said being contacted does not necessarily mean a resident’s well will be affected, only that the Army wants to test the water quality.

Fort Riley said the Army assesses if past activities may have resulted in a release and the potential for human exposure and takes action to protect human health and the environment as necessary. It said further CERCLA actions are prioritized and sequenced based on risk.

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