Letter: Navy should be proactive, transparent on water

The Navy says it’s going to be a year before it installs a special filter to remove the PFAS chemicals contaminating Coupeville’s water. And that filter has not been designed and will not remove all of the PFASs.

Once filtered, Coupeville’s water will be monitored to make sure the filter is working, and to see how much of which PFASs people will still be drinking. Regardless of how small those amounts, people have a “right-to-know” what they are. The proper analysis of water after filtration will tell us. However, if detection and reporting limits are set too high, lower amounts of PFASs won’t be detected.

Coupeville and the Navy refuse to identify the detection limits to be used. The Navy wants the simple question to go through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process, and for the questioner to agree to pay costs. Coupeville’s mayor won’t answer the question, saying only that EPA Method 537 will be used – which has been used with differing detection limits.

Why keep monitoring details a secret? And why reinvent the wheel and “design” a PFAS filter when they are on the market and in operation around the country? Could it be that a not-so-efficient filter system is in the works? A bargain-basement filter and loose monitoring would save the Navy money and allow unfiltered PFASs to go unreported.

Knowing what’s in our water is a right that the Navy and Coupeville officials have not always recognized. Coupeville was finding PFHXS in its water a year before water users were informed. The Navy knew the chemical had leaked from the Outlying Field (OLF) but didn’t test for it when nearby private wells were first investigated. PFHXS has been linked to child development problems and stays in the body longer than other PFASs.

The contamination of Coupeville’s water and private wells was discovered almost a year and a half ago. Even if things go as planned, people drinking Coupeville’s water will have waited two and a half years for it to be filtered. Meanwhile, they will have been drinking levels of PFASs that exceed the health advisories of a number of states.

The Navy has been neither transparent nor proactive. Nor has it addressed the PFAS contamination problem with the sense of urgency it deserves. Simple questions, like the one about detection limits, should be answered without citizens having to make FOIA or Public Records Act requests.

Rick Abraham

Greenbank WA

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