An emerging contaminant is a recently discovered compound that may, or may not, represent a risk or danger to public health. As in this case, they are often compounds that the EPA is currently investigating. I learned about this compound at a public Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting held at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard located in Vallejo, California.
As a brief prelude, Mare Island was an active Naval shipyard from 1854 until its decommissioning in 1993. Over 500 ships, submarines and support vessels were built at this facility during a time when very few environmental regulations existed and, as a result, now this former shipyard is undergoing environmental cleanup in conjunction with ongoing transformation into a thriving futuristic residential and business community. As part of this transformation the US Navy has a defined process known as the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program. This program allows the safe transfer of military installations into the hands of the public domain and further oversees environmental cleanup operations. For more information on the cleanup and water quality instrumentation used at Mare Island and the RAB public meeting process for other former naval facilities such as Hunters Point, Treasure Island, and Alameda click here.
Having attended these RAB meetings for decades, I give credit to the RAB members and Navy BRAC teams for their oversight and attentive involvement.
One BRAC team member gave an interesting presentation defining a new emerging contaminant compound, per and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS's). As taken from the EPA website (PFAS’s) are a diverse group of compounds resistant to heat, water, and oil. For decades, they have been used in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, apparels, upholstery, food paper wrappings, fire-fighting foams and metal plating. You can find information here.
The EPA has established what is called a lifetime health advisory (LHA) exposure limits at 70 part per trillion (PPT) in drinking water meaning a person should not be exposed to a level greater than that. Comparatively, a PPT is an infinitesimally small amount; think one second out of 30,000 years.
The Navy is undertaking an initial evaluation that will implement a groundwater investigation and sampling project at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard to evaluate the potential presence of PFAS’s in ground water. The sampling calls for specialized protocols to redevelop some existing wells and avoid cross contamination or introducing PFAS’s in the sampling process. Further investigation shows the Navy’s has conducted similar studies of this nature at military installations some of which show the presence of PFAS’s at levels exceeding the EPA lifetime threshold. More information on this and how the Navy is responding.
The presentation outlined the Navy's interest is to assure this compound is not a constituent of concern at Mare Island. The intent is to sample in the Winter of 2017 and prepare a technical memorandum while working closely with regulatory agencies on plans additional assessment, if needed.
Stay tuned, EnviroTech will provide an ongoing update of the progress being done by the Navy for this new emerging contaminant.