George Air Force Base disposed of Firefighting Foam in Landfill-1 (L-1). L-1 is located south of Air Base Road in the Southeast Disposal Area (SEDA) and about a ¼ mile upstream of the old Drinking Water Supply Wells for George AFB, Adelanto, CA, several homes, and the former Victor Valley Country Club. Unfortunately, the groundwater flows northeast from the SEDA directly toward these drinking water supply wells creating a potential Exposure Pathway for PFOA and PFOS to tens of thousands of civilians, and military personnel and their family members (spouses, children, and developing fetuses) over the years.
In 1970, the Air Force began using the firefighting agent Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF, which contains both PFOS and PFOA. The Air Force began replacing legacy AFFF with a new, environmentally responsible firefighting foam in August 2016. The replacement foam, Phos-Chek 3 percent, six carbon chain AFFF is PFOS-free and contains only trace amounts of PFOA.
By 1995, U.S. Department of Defense employees knew firefighting foams used across the country could potentially contaminate drinking water sources with perfluorinated chemicals, according to documents reviewed by this news organization.
Source: “Foam and the Environment: A Delicate Balance”
However, the Air Force did not test for PFOA and PFOS at former fire training areas at George AFB until 2015. As of 11/19/2017, the Air Force has not tested for PFOA and PFOS in the soil and groundwater of the SEDA or the old supply wells for GAFB, Adlanto, and the private wells that are downstream of the SEDA.
Firefighting Foam SEDA – GAFB Final Environmental Impact Statement – May 1990 – PDF
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs or what is now called PFOA and PFOS) were detected at the fire training areas at the former George AFB in 2015 and reported in November 2016.
Studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). To learn more about the underlying studies for the health advisories, see EPA’s Health Effects Support Documents for PFOA and PFOS.
Some PFAS accumulate in the human body, and the levels decrease slowly over time. The ability of these compounds to be stored in the body, also known as body burden, increases concerns about the possible effects on human health.
Some, but not all studies in humans have shown that certain PFAS may:
- affect the developing fetus and child, including possible changes in growth, learning, and behavior.
- decrease fertility and interfere with the body’s natural hormones,
- increase cholesterol,
- affect the immune system, and
- increase cancer risk.