Ground water contamination near Fairbanks impacts dozens of homes

PFAS well search and sample results discovered in November 2017. (Photo courtesy by Shannon...
PFAS well search and sample results discovered in November 2017. (Photo courtesy by Shannon & Wilson Inc.) (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 29, 2017 at 4:05 PM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Contaminants were found in the well water of dozens of homes and businesses bordering the Fairbanks International Airport.

Earlier this month

. The chemicals are often used in firefighting foam used for aviation.

As of Wednesday, Fairbanks airport officials say 63 out of about 150 wells have been tested. The results for 33 of those samples have come back with 19 wells above the EPA's lifetime health advisory level, and another seven showing some sign of contamination.

According to geologist Marcy Nadel, one of several people collecting well water samples with Shannon & Wilson Inc., the EPA's lifetime health advisory level is 70 parts per trillion. What they're looking for are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS.

"PFAS are a category of chemicals that are considered emerging contaminants," said Nadel. "Unfortunately the health effects are not well known. They’re currently being studied. We have long term studies that are ongoing right now, and much of the information that we have – and the Dept. of Health has reviewed – is based on animal studies. So there’s a lot of uncertainty, and that’s why the level is what it is. It's a parts per trillion level, where other contaminants will have parts per billion levels that are considered a safety threshold."

As a result of the positive tests, Fairbanks airport officials say they started scoping a construction project to connect residents with contaminated wells to clean water.

"In the short term, we’re offering everyone in the testing area water through Vision Construction, and they can have that water through the duration of the project," said Angie Spear, divisions operations manager of Fairbanks International Airport. "The phase two will be construction and getting people hooked up to a permanent water source."

Earlier this month, the Fairbanks International Airport discovered water contamination in four of six wells tested on airport property. Spear says the source of the contamination is believed to be firefighting foam.