Statement from Patrick Gordon, NAS Patuxent River Public Affairs Officer:
“While we appreciate concerns over PFAS, without knowing how and under what conditions this single sample tested at St. Inigoes was collected, it is impossible to comment on its veracity or accuracy.
Pax River’s PFAS investigation is part of a nation-wide Navy program intended to ensure protection of human health and the environment from these emerging contaminants. PFAS are a group of man-made compounds used in many products since the 1950s such as non-stick cookware, stain repellant coating on fabrics and carpet, microwave popcorn bags, and fire-fighting foam.
At Pax, we’re following a structured process, in partnership with the U.S. EPA and the Maryland Department of the Environment, to determine the extent of PFAS release areas at Pax River and OLF Webster Field. The Navy will conduct sampling at the known and suspected PFAS release areas on base, and will share new information with the community as it becomes available through the Restoration Advisory Board.
We invite anyone who wants to learn more about this program to come to the Pax River PFAS Open House at the Lexington Park Library March 3 from 5 to 7 p.m.”
Lexington Park, Md. – February 28, 2020 – Water taken from St. Inigoes Creek earlier this month was tested by an independent lab and was determined to have 1,894 ppt (parts per trillion) in total PFAS—well beyond the safe limit according to the Michigan lab. The EPA has an advisory for levels above 70 ppt PFAS in drinking water.
Contamination in Michigan led to a state advisory on eating fish and venison from the local area – the advisory states that no consumption level is safe. Oysters tested near the now-shuttered Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire contained 55,000 ppt of PFAS.
PFAS Information Open House
5 pm to 7 pm Tuesday March 3
Lexington Park Library
NAS Patuxent River will present
In response to our question whether oysters are safe to eat in the vicinity of Webster Field, Cathy Brohawn – Environmental program Manager for Maryland Department of the Environment – replied via email, “MDE does not have any information regarding PFAS levels in surface waters or oysters at this time.” Public health officials around the world are warning the public, especially child-bearing age women, about ingesting PFAS. Human health risks are largely undocumented and little research has been completed. Studies in animals suggest that these chemicals may cause cancer, genetic damage, and/or hormonal disruptions. MDE does monitor oysters for pathogens and designates boundaries where shellfish should not be taken for consumption. These areas are marked by boundary signage along the shoreline. MDE does warn the public that consumption of the “mustard” in crabs taken from the St. Mary’s River is unsafe due to high level of PCBs. No level of consumption is safe, according to MDE notice for the St. Mary’s.
The Navy’s website suggests there are many contaminated sites in Maryland including some Department of Defense (DOD) bases, as well as some private industries. The most common source of PFAS pollution is from fire fighting foam used extensively in years past by the DOD. Local fire departments around the world may have also used these products in the past. PFAS family of over 4,000 chemicals are considered “forever chemicals” as they do not break down in the environment and are extremely slow to depart the human body.
Surface water and drinking water contamination are the biggest risks according to MDE. Yet accumulation of PFAS in animal tissue (oysters, crabs, fish, deer, etc.) is untested here locally and many wells are also not tested. Fortunately, there are water filters that can remove nearly all PFAS. Since we have a surface water (actually open river water) test showing extremely high levels, there must be a source from which surface runoff has carried PFAS into the river. Webster field has been a user of fire fighting foams containing PFAS – so has NAS Patuxent River. In fact an area known as Site 34 on Base was a storage area for PFAS contaminants; this is located close to the intersection of Rte 235 and Hermanville Road. We have been working with local activists to gather a few sample of well water for testing.
We strongly advise residents in the vicinity of these two military establishments, along with health officials, our political leaders, and anyone working in the fishing industries, to attend this meeting on March 3.