Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins wrote to Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, urging him to provide an update on the Navy’s long-term plans to respond to elevated levels of PFAS contaminants that were detected in multiple wells in the vicinity of Naval Support Activity Cutler.
Following initial testing conducted in September of private well water near the NSA Cutler Fire Station, the Navy received validated results indicating that samples from twelve private wells exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lifetime health advisory level for the PFAS chemicals. Additionally, testing of the well that provides drinking water to the NSA Cutler Fire Station indicated contaminants exceeding the advisory level, despite earlier sampling in 2016 that detected levels below the EPA threshold.
“In instances when the preliminary results indicate levels of PFOA/PFOS above the EPA advisory level, the Navy has committed to providing bottled water for drinking and cooking to affected homes and the NSA Cutler Fire Station, and I urge you to continue that important support until a long-term solution is implemented,” Senator Collins wrote. “Please provide me an update on the Navy’s long-term plans to monitor these drinking water sources and conduct remediation as necessary to ensure safe and clean drinking water for Mainers affected by these contaminants.”
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins has helped lead Congress’ work on a bipartisan basis to address PFAS contaminants and conduct environmental remediation when needed, including through the Department of Defense. The Senate-passed fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act authorized additional funding for the study and removal of PFAS in the environment, including an adopted amendment Senator Collins cosponsored with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) authorizing an additional $15 million for the PFAS study being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a family of thousands of different chemicals that have been widely used in industrial and consumer products since the 1950s, but several PFAS are now of emerging public health concern. The EPA has issued a drinking water lifetime health advisory for two commonly used and studied PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The most common Navy activity that could have resulted in the historical release of PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS to the environment is the use of certain types of firefighting foam for testing, training, firefighting, and other life-saving emergency responses.