Navy conducting water testing in Venetia area wells for possible contamination

Navy conducting water testing in Venetia area wells for possible contamination
The “area of interest” regarding potentially contaminated groundwater includes Venetia, the Timuquana Country Club and Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park.

Residents in the Venetia neighborhood and the Timuquana Country Club were put on alert by the U.S. Navy after Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a report that NAS Jacksonville has groundwater polluted from decades of chemicals used during firefighting training on the base.

Two years ago, the DOD tested 17 shallow groundwater-monitoring wells on the base and found a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) at 19,000 times higher than the recommended level. The manmade chemical is not absorbed well in soil and could migrate to groundwater, stated a press release issued by the Public Affairs Office at NAS Jacksonville Aug. 7.

In March, the DOD put the base on a national list of 36 contaminated military installations and began to check the surrounding community.

So far, they have identified more than 20 private wells which may be contaminated and has begun testing the wells. The Timuquana Country Club’s golf course was also scheduled to be tested because, as it turns out, the base has been providing filtered water from a holding pond, which has a concentration of the chemicals, to the club to irrigate its golf course.

Greg Sheara, general manager for the club, said he didn’t know how long the club has accessed the pond for its course irrigation, but did state the Navy was proactive and tested the drinking water in cooperation with the Jacksonville Energy Authority (JEA). “There is no impact on the facility or on the drinking water,” said Sheara, noting they are working closely with the Navy on tests of the golf course. “Results for that won’t be back until later in September.”

The Navy also sent letters to about 3,000 area residents asking them for permission to sample their drinking water if their source is not from the Jacksonville Energy Authority (JEA) water lines.

“If your private drinking water well is found to contain PFOS and/or PFOA at or above the U.S. EPA lifetime health advisory level, the Navy will provide bottled drinking water or an alternate drinking water supply. We will continue to provide alternate drinking water until a long-term solution is in place,” stated the letter from the base’s commanding officer, Captain M. P. Connor. 

The “long-term solution” would most likely be connecting those properties to the JEA water lines, at the Navy’s expense, said Kaylee LaRocque, NAS Jax Public Affairs Officer.

The two chemicals, together called polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are used in the manufacture of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) used during firefighting operations. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified PFAS as an unregulated or “emerging” contaminant which are not subject to Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory standards or routine water quality testing requirements. 

While there is no legal requirement to perform the testing, the Navy is doing the testing out of a desire to be proactive and to ensure the safety and well-being of its neighbors, according to a statement on its website.

The Navy also held an open house Aug. 16 to allow residents to voice concerns. Pete Dao, EPA project manager, said the agency doesn’t dispute the chemicals could present a very real health risk, but little amounts of the chemical would need to be regularly ingested over a long period of time or a high level be present all at once for people to be endangered.

For technical information about the investigation, visit cnic.navy.mil and enter “Jacksonville FL drinking water investigation” in the search bar.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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