Highly dangerous chemicals found in wells near near Garfield and 7 Mile

 

SPOKANE, Wash. — Updated Monday, September 26: “Forever chemicals” (PFOS and PFOA) have been discovered in well systems near Garfield Rd and 7 Mile Rd after numerous waves of testing by the Air Force. Testing in this area began back in January.

The chemicals are known to cause cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues. They’re also notorious for their inability to be broken down naturally in the environment.

“I got a letter from the Air Force that says they want to test my well,” said Jay Smith, a resident who lives several miles off 7 Mile road. “In February, they made it out and I got my results.”

Smith was one of numerous residents in the area to receive that letter.

In 2016, the EPA deemed water containing 70 nanograms per one trillion liters of water to be dangerous to drink (70 ppt).

In June of this year, they released an updated interim health advisory, with starkly different numbers:

For PFOS: 0.02 ppt.

For  PFOA: 0.004 ppt.

Smith’s initial test came back at 52.1. He’s awaiting results from a more recent sample taken over three months ago, which is expected to be even higher.

His neighbor’s water, just 50 yards away, is now at over 100 ppt.

“Her well is the same depth as mine,” said Smith. “And so if she’s contaminated, then I must be too.”

Smith has abstained from drinking or cooking with anything but bottled water since these tests began.

Just down the road, is Smith’s neighbor George Compton.

Compton was one of the first residents to learn that PFOS and PFOA were in the area. He discovered this after hearing residents of Airway Heights just up the road had battled this very issue.

His home test came back with concerning results.

I contacted Fairchild Air Force Base and told them that they needed to test the water, said Compton. Their tests confirmed what Compton already knew.

After speaking with representatives from the Air Force, Compton says these chemicals came from the Fairchild Air Force base itself.

Fairchild AFB clarified, telling 4 News Now that they used AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam), which contained PFAS, to extinguish fires during emergencies. It was also used during trainings.

Over time, these chemicals worked their way from the soil into the groundwater. Over the past 40 to 50 years, they appear to have slowly made their way to neighborhoods near the base.

The Air Force has been testing for these chemicals in the area surrounding Fairchild AFB since 2017, shortly following the EPA’s research on the dangers of these chemicals.

After confirming that Compton’s water was contaminated at 70 ppt, the Air Force built a water filtration system on his property. Compton says it kills any bacteria and contaminants that run through it. The Air Force will continue maintaining it until his contamination levels drop below 70 ppt.

The Air Force has installed these filtration systems in accordance with the EPA’s 2016 health advisory of 70 ppt.

It’s unclear whether the EPA’s updated recommendation will change how many residents qualify for a water filtration system.

For now, Compton is one of just a few in that area with this $50,000 lifeline. He is grateful for having clean water, but his concerns lie with those living nearby.

The majority of his neighbors are boycotting their own water in fear of the health repercussions that could come with consuming it.

“I’m just concerned about the neighbors. And there’s children further down, I’m concerned about them.”

The Fairchild Air Force Base released a map of the area they’re monitoring for water contamination.

If your drinking water well is within the sample area and you have not been contacted, the Fairchild AFB recommends you call their public affairs office at (509)247-5705.

Their hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.