DULUTH, MINN. — 18 families living on or near Duluth’s Martin Road could now be questioning the safety of their drinking water.
Yesterday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent letters to the families describing a potentially dangerous chemical that could be leaking from Duluth’s Air National Guard Base.
Perfluorochemicals, or PFCs are a family of man-made chemicals that have been used for decades to make industrial products.
One of those products is the spray foam used by fire fighters of the 148th to extinguish burning jet fuel.
From 1960 to 1987 base fire crews doused the ground with PFC–powered foam along with thousands of gallons of combustible fuel and paint — most of it dumped during practice.
Officials say the spray foam is still used by guard firefighters but only in the case of real fires.
Now, after a series of clean–up efforts, the Air Force has hired experts to test the wells of private home–owners for PFCs.
“What we don’t know is where those PFCs went in the environment from this site at this time,” said Major Steve Wabrowetz, Maintenance Director for the Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing.
“We want to ensure that these PFCs have not reached these private drinking water wells.”
PFCs are used in a number of industrial and household products. Teflon cookware is one example.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, high concentrations of PFCs cause harmful changes in the liver and other organs in laboratory animal studies.
At this point there have been no human trials.
In 2007, five test locations near the Air National Guard base found low levels of PFCs.
In an effort to clean the site, the MPCA has ordered that a survey be completed within a 1¾–mile radius of the site to determine if PFCs are in the groundwater.