Air Force testing for PFAS near Battle Creek base

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
Battle Creek BC Air National Guard Base 040116_203809

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — The Battle Creek Air National Guard Base is looking into whether drinking water was contaminated by a firefighting foam used there.

Groundwater and soil sampling to look for possible PFAS contamination will begin Monday, the U.S. Air Force says.

There are several neighborhoods in the area of the base, some of which have wells. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is already working with state and local health agencies to test those wells.

The investigation is an extension of the Air Force’s effort to identify and respond to potential PFAS contamination at its facilities. The Air Force says it conducted a study back in 2015 looking at areas that might be impacted.

The concern is linked to the Air Force’s use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) starting in the 1970s. The foam contained PFOA and PFOS, chemicals in the family of PFAS, a likely carcinogen.

Near Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda on the east side of the state, AFFF is blamed for PFAS contamination in wells, a ban on eating fish and foam on a lake.

The foam, which smothers a fire, was also used at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in metro Grand Rapids, where firefighters regularly held training sessions with it. Those practice sessions were eliminated by 2000.

The Muskegon County Airport is also investigating its use of AFFF.

PFAS is also at the center of a toxic tap water crisis in northern Kent County. There, the contamination is blamed on waste dumped decades ago by Rockford-based shoe manufacturer Wolverine Worldwide.

The firefighting foam now used at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base contains only trace amounts of PFOA, the Air Force says.

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