JACKSON — Residents in five towns surrounding Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst are awaiting test results for well water after high levels of potentially dangerous chemicals were found in wells at the base.

Tech Sgt. Chris Powell from the base's public affairs office said all the people in the surrounding area have been notified and provided informational packets about the testing process for perfluoroctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Powell said while some wells have been tested, the base has yet to receive any "fully validated" information for the results.

The chemicals are unregulated, but the federal government has issued advisory limits for the substances, which are used in manufacturing of non-stick cookware and in firefighting foam that had been used at the base.

The New Jersey base is not the only one going through this process, according to Powell, though not all bases are extending their testing to off-base locations. He said the testing became necessary especially in locations where there have been firefighting training areas, and other areas where the chemicals might have been used.

While some residents have submitted paperwork for the tests, Powell said many have not yet. He said reminders have been sent out and will continue to be sent out in an effort to have as many people included as possible.

Testing in these areas on the base showed "exceedences of the advisory levels."

"That gave us enough information that we should probably go out and test around the area."

When test results do come back, Powell said there are several steps that can be taken to help residents whose tests come back with unsafe levels of the chemical. In those cases he said the Air Force would help immediately with remediation. That would include anything from initially bringing bottled water to the residents, to installing carbon filters, to possibly connecting them to a public water source in the most severe cases.

Powell said that while the chemicals pose a health risk when consumed, they are safe for other things like showering and laundry. In January, the base revealed that two private wells in Manchester showed higher levels than the EPA advisory.

A Harvard study found that New Jersey was second only to California among states with drinking water that tested positive for high levels of these chemicals. In the past year, The EPA issued a lifetime drinking water Health Advisory limit for the chemicals at 70 parts per trillion.

While the testing has been done in a fairly limited area near the base, Powell said they are preparing for the possibility of needing to expand the testing area. "If for instance all those areas came back really high then we would have to go back and work with the regulators again," he said.

He said that while the chemicals have been used for a while, the information about potential health risks is relatively new. When it comes to the base's firefighting equipment, Powell said all their trucks which had used the foam have been "transitioned out."

"We're using a foam that no longer has those chemicals," Powell said, adding that the last truck had been phased out in December of last year. "Even before that they stopped training with that foam."

The sampling work is being done at the state and federal level as a combined effort by the EPA and the Department of Environmental Protection.

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Sergio Bichao contributed to this report

Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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