Navy Contaminates Coupeville Wells from Navy OLF Training Site

This came in this week from the folks monitoring the Navy’s OLF base.  I think that this issue should be addressed to all public officials for Whidbey Island, including  U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (2nd district),  U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Governor Jay Inslee should also be contacted with any concerns.

Those of us in the environmental community have known for years of the concerns with the foam sprayed to cool down the jets and fire fight them at crashes. Huge amounts of this foam were used in both Gulf Wars.

We have called for an end to using the base for training, based on the proximity of a large population base, which has grown tremendously since the Navy first moved onto the base in the 1940s. We have warned of numerous issues the base represents, from excessive sound that even the Navy admits causes harm to humans and wildlife, dangers of crashes in heavily populated areas and the possibility now realized of water contamination from toxic chemicals used by the Navy.

Residents Warned Against Drinking, Preparing Food with Their Water

The Navy has delivered bottled water and warnings to the first of what may be many homes with contaminated drinking water that are located in the area of the Navy’s Outlying Field (OLF) near Coupeville.

At least two property owners, some of the first who took the Navy up on its offer to have their water wells tested, were notified by phone that their water contained toxic chemicals above EPA Health Advisory Levels.

The Navy’s testing of private and public water wells followed the October 11 discovery of toxic chemicals in an OLF drinking water well that signaled contamination of the underlying aquifer. The fear that perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) found beneath the OLF had spread beyond Navy property prompted a November 7 letter to more than 100 private and public drinking water well owners in a one mile radius.

Some wells serve multiple properties.

The Town of Coupeville had its two water supply wells independently tested for three of the six chemicals that were found beneath the OLF. The Town’s well field located closest to the OLF was found contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) a level close to, but not above the EPA’s Health Advisory Level. The other two chemicals, PFOS and PFBS, were not detected at the levels they were tested for.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) has been linked to kidney and testicular cancers, birth defects, damage to the immune system, heart and thyroid disease, and complications during pregnancy. EPA’s Science Advisory Board labeled it a likely human carcinogen. Although the Navy describes the amounts found as “trace”, PFOA is hazardous in tiny doses because it accumulates in the body and takes years to excrete.

Last week, one of what may end up being many families was told by the Navy that PFOA was found in their drinking water at more than six times the EPA’s Health Advisory Level.

A neighbor’s well was also found to be contaminated and the family warned against using their water for drinking or cooking. With the Navy’s phone call came the realization that family members had been drinking a likely human carcinogen known to accumulate in the body, and have been doing so for an unknown period of time.

The Navy isn’t saying how many of the privately owned wells have shown contamination thus far. However, the distance from the OLF to the private wells showing contamination, suggests that closer wells may also be contaminated.

The Navy notifies well owners by phone and then delivers bottled water to their homes if the levels of contamination are above the EPA’s Health Advisory Levels. The Navy says it will do nothing if contaminates are found below those levels. Well owners whose water has been tested by the Navy have yet to received complete copies of the laboratory reports.

“The Navy’s approach to this pollution problem is no different than that of any big industrial polluter seeking to avoid criticism, reduce liability, and continue business-as-usual,” said Rick Abraham, an environmental consultant working with Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve (COER). “They downplay the seriousness of the problem, drag out investigations, and keep the public in the dark,” he said.

Abraham was previously involved in PFOA investigations on behalf of industrial workers and communities in at least five states.

The Navy’s Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) containing PFOA and/or PFOS is the suspected source of the contamination. The United States, Canada, European Union, Australia, and Japan have banned new production of this fire fighting foam. However, the Navy has stockpiled large amounts for use in fighting fires until it finds a satisfactory substitute. The fire trucks sitting at the OLF and main base in Oak Harbor still have PFOA and PFOS containing AFFF.

The Navy has refused to identify the AFFF brands or formulations to be used in event of an accident, and will only say that they don’t contain “as much” of the dangerous chemicals as they once did.

According to the Navy, historical crash sites and fire training areas are the most likely sources of PFAS contamination at its installations. However, the Navy has yet to investigate the site of a 1982 crash site at the OLF. It claims to be unsure of the crash location and that investigating the site is not a priority.

COER is aware of at least one resident who witnessed the crash and the firefighting trucks at the scene of the still burning jet. The site was not considered in the Navy’s investigation plans.

The Navy claims to have no record of AFFF being used at the OLF, even though a resident recalls seeing the spreading foam on the OLF runway and the washing of fire trucks at OLF after fire fighting training. The Navy has held two large public informational meetings but has made no effort to seek such information from area residents.

The Navy has also kept its plans for investigating contamination at the OLF from the public. The Navy’s “draft” Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP) was provided to the EPA and Island County Public Health. All have refused to make the plan public, claiming that “draft” status of plan exempts it from open records laws.

“The people most at risk have been kept in the dark and denied meaningful input,” said Abraham. “The Navy’s failure to consider the potential sources of the contamination raises questions about the adequacy of the investigation,” he added.

“The last thing the Navy wants to do is draw attention to an accident that highlights the risks posed by thousands of touch-and-go ‘Growler’ jet training operations at the OLF,” said Maryon Atwood, a COER board member whose home is near the OLF.

The Navy just released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement wherein it seeks to increase touch-and-go operations Growler jet operations at the OLF up to 35,000 a year, almost a six-fold increase over current levels. “Increasing operations will increase the risk of accidents and the threat to our drinking water,” said Atwood. “This is in addition to increasing noise levels that already exceed community guidelines established by the EPA, OSHA, the State of Washington and the World Health Organization,” she added.

If private and public wells are shown to contain PFOA or PFOS above the EPA’s Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion, either individually or combined, the Navy says it will provide alternative water. According to a number of health experts, the levels deemed to be acceptable by the EPA are set far too high and not adequately protective.

Navy and Air Force sites around the country have been identified as sources of PFAS contamination with the cost of remediation and providing alternate water running into the tens of millions of dollars.

###, P.O. Box 202, Coupeville, WA 9823

Toxic “Reform” Law Will Gut State Rules on Dangerous Chemicals – The Intercept

I hope Washington State Representative Kevin Van de Wege is watching this and putting in his two cents to President Obama to veto this pending law. Kevin and many others throughout the State have fought very hard to bring laws to the books to reduce the use and proliferation of fire retardants and other chemicals proven to be ineffective in their jobs and dangerous to the environment. Now, the Republican dominated US Congress is set to forward onto the President an extremely bad reform bill that actually reforms our ability to challenge Federal management of these chemicals. Want to do something about it? Call or write Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Representative Derek Kilmer and President Obama and state that the Toxic Reform Bill is flawed law.

A NEW SET OF BILLS that aims to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act may nullify the efforts of states such as Maine  and California to regulate dangerous chemicals. The Senate’s bill, passed last month, just before the holidays, is particularly restrictive. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act — named, ironically, for the New Jersey senator who supported strong environmental protections — would make it much harder for states to regulate chemicals after the EPA has evaluated them, and would even prohibit states from acting while the federal agency is in the process of investigating certain chemicals.

The Senate’s version has some significant differences from the House bill — the TSCA Modernization Act, which passed in June — and the reconciliation process is now underway. If the worst provisions from both bills wind up in the final law, which could reach the president’s desk as soon as February, the new legislation will gut laws that have put Oregon, California, Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, and Washington state at the forefront of chemical regulation.

Thanks to the Intercept, one of my favorite news websites, for bringing this to our attention.

Port Angeles Sewer Spill

A drunk driver was able to crash into the sewer plant??????? If it’s the one I’m thinking of, it’s down in the gulley below Hwy 20. It’s not easy to drive down there, and I thought that there was a gate around it…I’ve got to find out more about this story…I wonder whether they will charge the driver with the cleanup costs and put a cost on the destruction to the Straits???

12/20 Peninsula Daily News
Port Angeles beaches closed by temporary sewage spill till at least Monday
By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Health Department won’t know until Monday at the earliest if the water is safe for recreation at Hollywood Beach and Valley Creek Estuary, where about 100,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled into Port Angeles Harbor early Friday.

Clallam County Environmental Health Services declared the two areas unsafe for swimming, wading, kayaking and other recreation that puts people in contact with the water.

The sewage spilled into the harbor after the city’s largest wastewater pumping station, located near the estuary, was taken offline for about four hours.

The facility at 313 Marine Drive was damaged when a driver, who was allegedly drunk, crashed into with it at about 2:30 a.m.

More at

Why we remained concerned about man made chemicals in the water…

I know, you have heard so much concern about everything that you assume that everything gives you cancer. I understand. Today’s story though is more proof to the pudding that we need to continue to get more research, and fight for getting the chemical companies to prove their products are safe, rather than get down the road and find out we have been affecting an entire generation of children. Is that too much to ask?  

10/6 USA Today Plastic chemical linked aggression in toddler girls

 By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY A new study adds to the growing concern that prenatal exposure to the chemical bisphenol A could harm children’s development. In the study of 249 pregnant women, the first to examine the effects of BPA on children’s behavior, researchers found that girls whose mothers had the highest levels of BPA during pregnancy were more aggressive and hyperactive at age 2 than other girls. Findings appear today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Girls were more likely to be aggressive if their mothers had high levels of BPA — an estrogen-like chemical used in many consumer products — early in pregnancy or at about 16 weeks, the study says. A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. More at

New study out on how household chemicals are entering the Sound and Straits.

People For Puget Sound and the Washington Toxics Coalition  have released the first comprehensive study on how the group of chemicals called Phthalates enter the Sound. These man made chemicals, present in many plastics, fragrances, deodorants, perfumes, lotions, hair products and cleaners, are apparently ending up on our clothing attached to dust. This dust can come from vinyl flooring, and many other common household products. Once on our clothes, they get washed down into the Sound with our laundry.  We need to look at how we ban these chemicals from our homes, but something you can do today is stop using Tide, which apparently is the one laundry soap with these chemicals in it.  The laundry soap Seventh Generation tested free of Phthalates. While the sample is too small to be definitive, the widespread findings, from various sample sites, means that a great deal more study is needed, and soon, if we plan to clean up the Sound by 2020! However, the implication given the finding of these in every location, can easily be extrapolated. We need to and can act now.

The Recommendations:

  • The State should act to ban these dangerous chemicals and have manufacturers replace them with safer alternatives.
  • The State should take action to phase out these chemicals now, by helping companies to move to these alternatives with technical support.
  • Companies should clearly label their products
  • The public should demand phthalate free products at their stores.
  • The Puget Sound Partnership should support these recommendations and act on them.

The study can be found, in it’s entirety, at

This is the kind of work your membership in either of these organizations helps pay for. Please consider joining if aren’t already a member!

Study says plastic decomposes at sea – AP story

This story has personal relevency. I traveled to Belize two years ago, the first thing I found in the water when I waded in was a plastic bag from Whole Foods!  If you have more interest in this story, go to the PT Marine Science center and see their exhibets about plastics in the ocean. They surveyed many locations on our Jefferson County and other shorelines, and there was plastic pellets, the things that plastic breaks down into, in all samples…we are slowly drowning in plastic. Use reusable cloth bags whenever you can.

8/19 Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Environmentalists have long denounced plastic as a long-lasting pollutant that doesn’t break down. A new study indicates that, in the oceans, plastic does decompose, but says that’s not a good thing either.

Thousands of tons of plastic debris wind up in the oceans every year, some of it washing up on coasts, some being swirled by currents into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii, said to be larger than Texas.

“Plastics in daily use are generally assumed to be quite stable,” Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University, Chiba, Japan, said in a statement.

“We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future,” said Saido, who presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society on Wednesday.

Saido reported that the decomposing plastics release potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A and PS oligomer, which can disrupt the functioning of hormones in animals.

PA approves $500k for Harbor Works

8/19 Peninsula Daily News Port Angeles OKs $500,000 for Harbor-Works By Tom Callis Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Harbor-Works Development Authority now has the $1 million it requested to cover its expected costs through 2010 and become ready to acquire Rayonier Inc.’s former pulp mill site. The City Council, in a 5-1 vote with Council member Cherie Kidd opposed and Deputy Mayor Betsy Wharton absent, approved loaning Harbor-Works $500,000 from its economic development fund Tuesday.

More at

The thing to remember in this article is that the money is not being used to buy the site, but to run the organization to buy the site. Included in that are some very high priced salaries for the head of the organization (now being the highest paid public servant in the county, apparently) along with money for the inevitable consultants that were not subject to public debate. The PDN did a poor journalist job of spelling out opposition to this, as they glossed over concerns and didn’t restate criticism that folks like Darlene Schanfeld have repeatedly put forward. Some background on that would have been easy for the reporter to insert. You can find  the links to the Olympic Environmental Council on our front page to the left.

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