Updated: Airway Heights Water

FAQ Regarding Airway Heights Water
Updated July 11, 2017

The search for contaminated water has expanded north of Fairchild Air Force Base after four wells in the area showed elevated levels of toxic firefighting chemicals.

Questions about private well sampling, contact Fairchild Air Force Base Public Affairs office at 509-247-5705

Previous coverage from June 8, 2017

The City of Airway Heights received confirmation results of its next set of 21 water sampling tests. Twenty of those samples came back below the health advisory level or “non-detect.” The one location that came back just above the minimum level (98 parts per trillion) has been valved off and does not supply water to the distribution system. In concurrence with the Washington State Department of Health. the city is pleased to let the public and businesses know that the advisory is lifted. Water can start being used immediately. To read the full release from City of Airway Heights, click here.

Previous coverage from May 24, 2017

Preliminary sampling results obtained by the Air Force for two water wells used to supply the city of Airway Heights indicate Perfluorooctanesulfonic (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acids (PFOA) concentrations above Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifetime Health Advisory (HA) levels. The Air Force is validating the preliminary findings and expects to provide final results to the city within two to three weeks.

Q: Who do I contact if I have questions?

A: Call 2-1-1 for water distribution information, updates, and emergency information. You can also text 2-1-1 at 898211 and type in the message EWHelp to receive text alerts or to be contacted by 2-1-1.

If you have concerns about your water or questions related to the possible water contamination, call Fairchild Air Force Base Public Affairs office at 509-247-5705 (8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.).

Other sources of information include:

Q: What are the potential health effects from PFOS and PFOA?

A: Most people in the U.S. already have PFOS and PFOA in their body. Though very few studies have been done on humans exposed to PFOS and PFOA, some – but not all – studies on people exposed to these substances over a long period of time indicate that exposure:

Much of what we know about the human health effects comes from a large study, in over 69,000 people, in Ohio and West Virginia who lived near DuPont’s Washington Works production facility in West Virginia, and were exposed primarily to PFOA over several decades. More about this study is at http://www.c8sciencepanel.org/.

Q: Do I need to seek immediate medical attention?

A: No. At your routinely scheduled medical visit, mention to your provider that you have possibly been exposed to the chemicals.

Q: Do I need to gey my blood levels tested?

A: Speak with your health care provider. Note that this does not require immediate medical attention. At your routinely scheduled medical visit, mention to your provider that you have possibly been exposed to the chemicals.

Q: How do I get my drinking water well tested?

A: If your well has been identified as a well at risk, as identified as Phase I and Phase II testing areas in this map, you will have been contacted by Fairchild Air Force Base (FAFB) to coordinate sampling. The contractor will work with you to arrange for a date/time to conduct the sampling and assist you in completing the sampling permission form. If you have questions or concerns about your water, contact FAFB at 509-247-5705.

Q: Do I have to get my well tested?

A: You are not required to have your private well tested; however, if your well is located near an area of FAFB known to contain PFOS/PFOA in the groundwater. USAF and EPA recommend that your well be tested to ensure the health and safety of your family.

Q: My water has been previously tested, why wasn’t I told about this before?

A: PFOS/PFOA are not included in routine drinking water sampling since they are classified as an "emerging contaminant." Emerging contaminants do not have established regulatory standards, but evolving science has identified potential risk to human health, and regulatory standards are under consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Q: What are PFOS and PFOA?

A: PFOS and PFOA are a large group of man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s. Use of some of these chemicals has decreased in the United States over the last 10 years. People can still be exposed to PFOS and PFOA because they are still present in the environment. PFOS and PFOA do not break down easily in the environment. They also build up in the bodies of exposed humans and animals. Over the last decade, interest in PFOS and PFOA has grown

Q: How can I be exposed to PFOS and PFOA?

A: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and our state health partners are studying exposure to PFOS and PFOA at a number of sites. PFOS and PFOA are found near areas where they are manufactured or used such as:

Consumer products can be source of exposures to PFOS and PFOA. These products include

Q: Is it safe to use affected water for bathing, cleaning, laundry, dishwashing, etc.?

A: It is safe to use affected water for purposes other than drinking or cooking. Water consumption into the body poses the health risk.

Q: What are Health Advisory Levels (HAs)?

A: EPA develops health advisories to provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory and provide technical information to state agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methodologies, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination. To provide residents, including the most sensitive populations, with a margin of protection from a life-time of exposure to PFOS and PFOA from drinking water, EPA established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion (ppt) in May 2016. When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations of PFOS and PFOA should be compared with the 70 ppt health advisory level. More information can be found at the EPA website listed above.