PFAS testing set for wells near King Salmon Airport

Mar 12, 2019

This round comes more than a month after PFAS levels at an airport well measured at more than double DEC's action level. King Salmon is the second Bristol Bay community to see follow-up testing for per- and polyfluorinated substances in drinking water sources.  

Credit DOT&PF

This week, wells around the King Salmon airport will be tested for PFAS contamination. The Alaska Department of Transportation has hired the environmental firm Shannon & Wilson, Inc. to sample water in those wells from March 14 through March 19.

Credit DOT&PF

The DOT map outlines the sampling area around the airport. PFAS project manager Sammy Loud encourages residents in the sampling area to contact Shannon & Wilson to schedule an appointment.

“We’re unsure of how many wells are actually in that area, which is what Shannon & Wilson will be identifying," Loud said. "They’ll go door-to-door and determine if there is a well in use in that sampling area, and if the property owners allow it, they’ll sample.”

This testing comes more than a month after a well by the King Salmon airport tested positive for PFAS in January. The contamination levels measured at 155 parts per trillion – more than double the state’s action level of 70 ppt. The well was used regularly by a business that leases property at the airport. That tenant was provided with an alternative drinking water supply.  

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation tested eight other wells in King Salmon at that time, which had concentrations well below the action level.

PFAS chemicals are used in firefighting foams, and the DOT says the contamination is a result of annual testing of firefighting equipment at the King Salmon Airport. For decades, airports have been required to use aqueous film-forming foam in annual testing to maintain Federal Aviation Administration certification. Moving forward, DOT will only discharge the foam at the King Salmon Airport in the event of an emergency. 

The state is testing wells near airports and Department of Defense sites around Alaska. It is spurred by emerging evidence that links PFAS consumption to increased health effects, including damage to the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and reproductive systems. 

King Salmon’s well was the second case of PFAS contamination in Bristol Bay. Dillingham’s Holy Rosary Catholic Church also tested positive for PFAS contamination in January; Shannon & Wilson collected samples in Dillingham two weeks ago.

The results of this round of testing in King Salmon will determine the next steps for the state.

“So if we get these sample results and there are wells that are impacted near the edge of the sampling area, then we would continue to move out until we essentially find the edge – the border – of that plume,” Loud explained.

Residents can contact Shannon & Wilson, Inc. at 907-371-9022 to schedule a sampling appointment. Seasonal and out-of-town residents can also call and leave their information; they can then be scheduled for testing at a later date.  

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is continually updating their Alaska PFAS Information page as more information becomes available.

Contact the author at isabelle@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200. 

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