Whidbey water is contaminated. How much? Where? Here’s what we know:
In November the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a health warning about drinking water with over 70 parts per trillion of PFOAs. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to PFOAs can increase the risk of cancer, liver damage, immune system suppression, thyroid problems, poorly developed fetuses and high cholesterol.
The EPA requires that all military, industrial and community facilities using PFOA fire fighting foams test ground water and the Navy offered free testing to homeowners with wells within a mile of Ault Field and Outlying Field Coupeville (OLF).
So far, 10 percent of tested wells near the OLF are above the limit, some far above, and one near Ault Field. One Coupeville well tested near the limit, but mixing in good water from two other wells makes it safe. Scientists, however, question whether 70/ppt limit is safe, suggesting 10/ppt. New Jersey set a 40/ppt. Vermont set a 20/ppt limit.
PFOAs are in many products. Most of us have a trace in our blood. But, the Navy is a major island source of contamination. Some island wells have other naturally occurring toxins – manganese and arsenic – but PFOA is a man-made chemical we can eliminate. Other communities have done so.
PFOAs have entered our bodies — without our consent. In tort law this is called “toxic trespass.”
My three-point plan:
1. Discontinuation: Stop using PFOAs. Remove the stockpiles. Use safer alternatives.
2. Transparency: Keep citizens in the loop. Solid information allays fears.
3. Remediation: Bottled water is a Band-Aid, not a remedy. The Navy must take full financial responsibility for toxic trespass, removing PFOAs and installing the best known remediation systems.
Clean water is a right for all our citizens. All living things, on farms and in nature, need it too. We want it back.