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Yakutat Airport Firefighting Foam Contamination

Page updated 9/22/21   Go to PFAS Home Page

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Background

Yakutat Airport

Above: Yakutat Water Sampling Results As Of August 2020
(click image for larger view)

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) was alerted to concentrations of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) exceeding the state action level for drinking water in one well located at the Yakutat Airport. Twelve wells were sampled on or near airport property. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) began initial sampling of private water wells near airport property in February 2019.

Of the 12 samples, there was one location in Yakutat that exceeded the DEC’s 2018 action level, but not the current action level, which is based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) level. Alternate drinking water has been provided to that location. Sampling in Yakutat occurred as the department was transitioning from the 2018 action levels to the current action level. Four wells tested well below the DEC 2018 action level and seven wells had no detections.

DOT&PF has contracted Shannon & Wilson, Inc. to finish the preliminary investigation, which includes an in-depth well search and sampling event.

PFAS are commonly used in products for fire suppression, resistance to wear, and repelling oil, stains, grease, and water. PFAS can be found in carpets, upholstery, apparel, paper, nonstick cookware, food packaging, personal care products, and in firefighting aqueous film forming foams (AFFF). The use of AFFF during firefighting equipment testing at the Yakutat Airport is the presumed source of PFAS contamination in the affected wells. PFAS are considered emerging contaminants and the health effects are not yet well characterized.

Shannon & Wilson conducted a well search and sampling event at the Yakutat airport and its surrounding area in June 2019. A total of 21 wells were sampled. None of those wells tested above the EPA’s LHA of 70 ppt. To date, one well in Yakutat has exceeded actionable levels and that location has been provided alternate drinking water. Based on the results from this thorough well search, the sampling area does not need to expand further.

In order to track PFAS movement in groundwater, DEC requires continued quarterly monitoring of wells with sample results above 35 ppt (in yellow on map) and annual monitoring of wells with sample results above 17.5 ppt (in light green on map).

Shannon & Wilson returned to Yakutat in December 2019 for a quarterly sampling event. Four wells were sampled, all of which had been previously sampled before. All four wells were below the EPA’s LHA of 70 ppt.

In March 2020 DOT&PF issued a letter to impacted properties notifying them that due to COVID-19 the first quarter monitoring event would be postponed until it was safe to reschedule. Alternative water distribution services will continue as normal. Quarterly and annual sampling events resumed in August 2020 and six samples were collected. Of those samples one well located on the same lot as the previous exceedance tested above the EPA's LHA level. The remaining samples were consistent with historical sampling data. As of August 2020, two wells have exceeded applicable action levels. In December 2020 five wells were sampled during a quarterly monitoring event and all results indicated similar results as historical data and there were no new wells exceeding action levels.

In May 2021 samplers conducted an annual sampling event in Yakutat. Seven samples were collected and results indicated results were consistent with historical data. Two soil samples were collected from the trench drains and outfall culverts located on airport property to aid in planning future sampling efforts. Of these samples no PFOS or PFOA were detected. In July 2021 seven samples were collected and results were in line with historical data and there were no new exceedances.

To date, DOT&PF’s priority in Yakutat has been to identify and provide safe drinking water to those who need it. Together with Shannon & Wilson, DEC and engineering consultants, DOT&PF has begun to assess options for a long-term solution to provide clean drinking water. A feasibility study was conducted and submitted to DOT&PF in spring 2021 and the department is currently reviewing the options presented to identify and implement a long-term solution. Site characterization efforts are tentatively planned for summer 2022.

All drinking water samples results are publicly available at this DEC website.

Residents who have questions regarding sample results please email airportwater@alaska.gov.

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Contacts

For more information, please contact us.

For questions about testing & study:

Shannon & Wilson, Inc.
Ashley Jaramillo, Project Manager
907-458-3118,
amj@shanwil.com

For regulatory questions:

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, 
Contaminated Site Program
Jamie Grant, Environmental Program Manager
907-334-5939
jamie.grant@alaska.gov

Division of Spill Prevention and Response website: 
dec.alaska.gov/spar/csp/sites.aspx

For questions about PFAS health effects:

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services
Sarah Yoder, Public Health Scientist
907-269-8054
sarah.yoder@alaska.gov

Andrew Cyr, Toxicologist
907-269-6529
andrew.cyr@alaska.gov

Division of Public Health Website:
dhss.alaska.gov/dph/epi/eph/pages/PFAS.aspx

For claim filing instructions:

Alaska Department of Administration
Division of Risk Management
Ken Simpson, Claims Administrator
PO Box 110218
Juneau, AK 99811-0218
907-465-2183
907-465-3690
Ken.simpson@alaska.gov

For questions about Yakutat Airport Firefighting Foam and all other inquiries:

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
Statewide Aviation
Sammy Cummings, PFAS Program Manager
907-888-5671
airportwater@alaska.gov