PFCs are perfluroinated chemicals that are fully fluorinated, organic compounds. They have been classified by the EPA as an “emerging contaminant” because of a perceived, potential, or real threat to human health or the environment or by a lack of published health standards.
PFCs at a Glance
- They are human-made and therefore are very persistent and stable in the environment and do not break down easily.
- They can move easily in the environment. PFCs can move through soil, get into groundwater, and be carried through air.
- PFCs have been found in soil, sediment, and water samples far away from where they were made or used.
- PFOS and PFOA just two out of a class of 12 PFCs.
- PFOS and PFOA are the only two that the U.S. EPA has developed provisional health advisory levels for pertaining to drinking water.
- They also bioaccumulate, meaning their concentration increases over time in the blood and organs.
- Readily absorbed after oral exposure and accumulate primarily in the serum, kidney and liver.
- At high concentrations, certain PFAS have been linked to adverse health effects in laboratory animals that may reflect associations between exposure to these chemicals and some health problems
*The above information was gathered from multiple sources including the NH DHHS and NH DES websites and fact sheets.
UPDATE: On May 19, 2016 the EPA released revised lifetime exposure levels for PFOA and PFOS from drinking water. The health advisory levels have been reduced to 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for both PFOA and PFOS. When both PFOA and PFOS are found in drinking water, the combined concentrations should be compared with the 70 ppt health advisory level. Read more here on the US EPA website.
The source of the PFC contamination at Pease has been associated with firefighting foam AFFF (aqueous film forming foam) used by the Air Force since the 1970's
When PFC-containing AFFF are repeatedly used in one location over a long period of time, the PFCs can move from the foam into soil and then into groundwater. The amount of PFCs that enter the groundwater depends on the type and amount of AFFF used, where it was used, the type of soil, and other factors. If private or public wells are located nearby, they could potentially be affected by PFCs from the place where AFFF was used. This is more likely to occur near places where PFC-containing AFFF has been used repeatedly, such as a fire training areas, airports, refineries, and chemical plants. It is less likely to occur from the one-time use of AFFF to fight a fire, unless large volumes of AFFF are used. Although some portable fire extinguishers may use PFC-containing AFFF, one time use of such a small amount would be unlikely to pose a hazard to groundwater.
* The above information was taken directly from the Minnesota Department of Health website
In May of 2014, Portsmouth, NH city officials shut down the Haven well that serves Pease International Tradeport after tests found PFC contaminants in the water.
Pease Development Authority (PDA) Executive Director David Mullen said the well was shut down in “an abundance of caution” after a test found elevated levels of PFOS in the well. According to a press release from the state, "Because the level of PFOS exceeds the 'provisional health advisory' set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the well was immediately shut down by the city of Portsmouth.” The Harrison and Smith wells located on Pease also tested positive for the chemicals, but were below the EPA’s PHA threshold. The Air Force first tested for PFCs in 2013 in monitoring wells surrounding the firefighting training site on Pease (AKA Site 8). Very high levels of PFCs were detected in the monitoring wells - read report.
The City of Portsmouth has been working with the Air Force to routinely test the wells on Pease for PFCs to monitor levels and track for migration of the contamination. All the water testing data is available on the City of Portsmouth website.
The City of Portsmouth's Water Division has been actively working with the United States Air Force (Air Force), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) in response to the detection of elevated levels of the unregulated contaminant perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) from the Haven Well, one of three wells that serves the Pease International Tradeport and the New Hampshire Air National Guard base at Pease. PFOS is one of a class of chemicals known as PFCs or perfluorochemicals. Because the level of PFOS exceeded the "provisional health advisory" set by the EPA, the well was shut down by the City of Portsmouth on May 12, 2014 and since that time it has been physically disconnected from the system. A number of actions have been taken by the project team.
* The above information was taken directly from the City of Portsmouth's website.