Fluoride Action Network

Pennsylvania: Three Harrisburg International Airport wells shut down for elevated PFOS

Source: Press and Journal | July 1st, 2014 | By Dan Miller
Industry type: Perfluorinated chemicals

Three wells at Harrisburg International Airport that supply water to customers in Lower Swatara Twp. and Highspire have been taken out of service after airport officials were notified of test results showing an elevated level of Perfluorooctane Sulfonate, or  PFOS, in the wells.

PFOS is not regulated under the federal Clean Water or Safe Drinking Water acts, but is a compound for which the Environmental Protection Agency is gathering additional information by testing on a nationwide basis.

In January 2009, the EPA established a provisional health advisory of 0.2 micrograms per liter for PFOS. Testing showed the levels of PFOS in the three wells to be from 0.4 to 1.1 parts per billion. Parts per billion is equivalent to micrograms per liter.

Airport owner Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority sells water from the wells to United Water Pennsylvania, and United then provides it to its customers in Lower Swatara and Highspire. As a precaution, United is not purchasing water from any of the six groundwater wells operated by the airport, including three wells that did not show elevated levels of PFOS, according to airport spokesman Scott Miller.

The authority and United Water, in a joint press release issued Thursday, June 26, said that customers who receive their water from the airport wells had been notified of the situation. The press release said that customers did not need to take any corrective action.

Edwards said that elevated levels of PFOS were found in the wells during a random test from water drawn by United Water in February. Edwards said that the authority was not told of the February test results until June.

Edwards said that on June 6 the state Department of Environmental Protection notified United Water of elevated levels of PFOS that had been detected in more recent testing of one of the airport wells. He said that United Water notified the authority, and the well was taken out of service on Monday, June 9.

More testing of the airport’s five other wells was done on June 10. Results came back on June 23 showing elevated levels of PFOS in two other wells, and those wells were taken out of service the same day, Miller said.

Edwards said he does not know if the wells had elevated levels of PFOS from February until results of the more recent testing were made known in June. United Water spokesman Bob Manbeck could not be reached for comment.

The three wells remain out of service. The press release said that both United Water and the authority “have initiated flushing in their systems throughout the affected areas to ensure that any residual water that could contain traces of PFOS is eliminated from the distribution system and storage facilities.”

Edwards said that the authority and United Water and now both awaiting results of more recent testing of the water that was conducted on Thursday, June 26.

Edwards said that elevated levels of PFOS had not been detected in the airport wells before because the EPA had not previously tested for the substance. Edwards said airport officials have not found the source of the PFOS. However, he added that officials believe that the PFOS was “probably associated” with activities that occurred many years ago when the airport property was still being used as the Olmsted Air Force Base, which was closed in 1969.