As many of you may have seen in the news and social media, past cancer occurrences in South Patrick Shores have prompted their citizens to request an environmental investigation from the Florida Department of Health in an attempt to determine an environmental cause. Recent media reports have created a perception that our installation’s drinking water is causing adverse health issues. I want to address that specific concern. As a two-time cancer survivor and commander of our installation, this resonates with me and I would like to reassure you of the safety of our drinking water and the Air Force’s continued efforts to protect human health.
The chemicals in question are perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFCs. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) established lifetime health advisories for two types of PFCs called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These are commonly used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial products, including
non-stick cookware, clothing and food packaging, and are also components of aqueous film forming foam; a type of firefighting foam used by industry, military and civilian aviation since 1970 to extinguish petroleum-based fires.
In 2009, the Air Force began preliminary assessments of its installations following provisional PFOS/PFOA advisories published by USEPA. In 2016, USEPA released lifetime health advisories of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water supplies. When both PFOS and PFOA are found together, the lifetime health advisory for drinking water remains at 70 ppt total. These standards are developed to provide information on contaminants that may affect human health and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. They are non-enforceable and non-regulatory, but provide technical information to state agencies and other public health officials.
After USEPA established the 2016 lifetime health advisories for PFOS/PFOA, the Air Force continued its aggressive campaign to determine which bases had PFOS/PFOA releases and, if found, if any past releases of PFOS/PFOA at Air Force installations could contaminate drinking water. The assessment at Patrick AFB found some levels of PFOS/PFOA present in the groundwater, but drinking water supplies were not impacted.
In order to be explicitly clear, groundwater is not the same as drinking water and our groundwater is not used for drinking water at Patrick AFB or our neighboring communities. We receive our drinking water from the City of Cocoa and the City of Melbourne. Both utility companies screen the drinking water for a variety of chemicals and compounds, including PFOS/PFOA, to ensure compliance with state and federal drinking water regulations and lifetime health advisories.
We are working closely with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, local utilities and regulators to monitor and address PFOS/PFOA concerns which may arise. Please share this clarification with your families and know that I am actively tracking your concerns and all issues regarding PFOS/PFOA.
If you have specific questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know.
For more information about the Air Force's response to PFOS & PFOA visit www.AFCEC.af.mil.
2017 Patrick Air Force Base Site Investigation Report