Being on Whidbey can mean drinking water with toxic chemicals from below and getting hammered with toxic noise from above. Those who only criticize Republican officeholders for condoning these Navy trespasses forget that Whidbey’s Democrats have made an art out of sitting on the fence and looking the other way.
When toxic chemicals were found in the aquifer beneath Outlying Field Coupeville (or OLF), Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes had the town’s wells tested for some, but not all of those chemicals. When perflourooctanic acid (PFOA) was found in the well adjacent to the OLF, she did not ask the Navy to install a new well or even for a filter system. Now, “blended” but still-contaminated water is (unless it has magically disappeared) being served to more than 1,000 Coupeville “customers” including schools and Whidbey General Hospital.
When tested at the distribution point in December, Coupeville’s water contained PFOA at 38 parts per trillion (ppt) — an increase over November’s testing. That level is lower than EPA’s health advisory level, but almost three times the health advisory standard of 14 ppt established by the state of New Jersey. And more than Vermont’s advisory level for people and livestock.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Whidbey General Hospital Commissioner Gretha Cammermeyer, both on the board of health, have not asked the Navy to provide for a clean water supply, for filter systems or for monitoring to make sure contamination and exposures don’t increase.
Health risks from exposure include harm to a developing fetus or child, decreasing fertility, increased cholesterol, damage to the immune system and increased risk of cancer.
No public officials have called on the Navy to replace its AFFF fire fighting foam, the source of the contaminants, with a substitute. Navy’s fire trucks sitting at the OLF and Ault Field are still loaded with foam that could re-contaminate the aquifer.
None of our public officials have been willing to stand up to the Navy. They would rather for the rest of us to live with noise and water pollution the Navy finds acceptable.