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Air Force to assess water contamination risk at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Andrew Layton
  • 110th Attack Wing
The Air Force will conduct environmental sampling at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base in mid-April to assess the potential for drinking water contamination stemming from past firefighting activities.


The sampling is part of the Air Force’s proactive, service-wide investigation to assess potential risk to drinking water from Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfanate (PFOS), two compounds found in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF).


In 1970, the Air Force began using AFFF, which contains PFOS/PFOA. AFFF is the most efficient extinguishing method for petroleum fires and is widely used across the firefighting industry, to include all commercial airports, for protection of people and property.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a health advisory for PFOS and PFOA in 2016.


As part of the Air Force’s three-step approach — identify, respond, protect — a preliminary assessment was completed in 2015 that identified potential release areas where AFFF was used at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. The groundwater sampling, which begins April 16th, will verify releases through groundwater, surface water, soil, and sediment sampling.


“The data and site information gathered throughout the investigation are intended to protect human health and minimize our environmental impact, both on and off the installation,” said Col. Bryan Teff, base commander. “The Air National Guard is a community-based organization, so we take our commitment to being good neighbors with the citizens of Battle Creek very seriously.”  


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), working in conjunction with state and local health agencies, is already in the process of a proactive plan to sample drinking water wells around the base, according to MDEQ spokeswoman Melanie Brown.


"We want to test as a precaution, in order to determine if there is need for any further environmental investigation,” said Brown.


The Air Force’s investigation work and mitigation actions are guided by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, applicable state laws, and the EPA’s drinking water health advisory. The Air Force is moving forward aggressively in accordance with the CERCLA process to identify, define and mitigate potential contamination resulting from Air Force mission activities. 


“Following the CERCLA process makes certain thorough investigative work is done,” said Teff. “The process also promotes accountability, community involvement, and long-term protection.”


The Air Force has replaced legacy firefighting foam at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base with a new, more environmentally responsible formula that contain no PFOS and only trace amounts of PFOA. Currently, fire protection services at W.K. Kellogg Airport are managed by the City of Battle Creek.