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Chemicals Found In Dayton's Water More Dangerous Than Previously Thought

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Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Turner is calling for more study into chemicals found in Dayton’s water supply. They’ve also been found in groundwater near more than 126 United States military installations, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The chemicals are the focus of a newly released government report showing they’re more dangerous than previously thought.

The long-awaited Department of Health and Human Services report looks at the health risks of industrial chemicals known by their acronyms “PFOS” and “PFOA.”

"This study will provide our federal, state, and local environmental regulators the information they need to make sure drinking our water remains safe, and I thank HHS for publicly releasing this draft report. I will continue to work with our community to keep Dayton’s water safe,” says Turner, who had lobbied EPA director Scott Pruitt to publicly release the document.  

The chemicals are now banned. But they were widely used in the U.S. up until around a decade ago in many common household products, including nonstick pans and some aviation firefighting foams.

Exposure is linked to health problems, including liver damage, cancer, decreased fertility, asthma, low newborn birth-weight, child developmental issues and thyroid disease, among other problems. 

"Immunotoxicity has been examined in children in several general population studies. Additionally, a large number of studies have examined the possible association of elevated serum perfluoroalkyl levels and adverse birth outcomes," the report reads.

Dayton officials say the city’s drinking water “remains safe,” and are coordinating closely with authorities at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, a suspected source of the contamination.

They reported finding less than 13 parts per trillion of the chemicals in the water supply. That's less than current EPA safety limits of 70 parts per trillion.  But the new federal report finds PFOS and PFOA are toxic to humans at levels lower than current EPA recommendations.

Calls seeking comment from the city were not immediately returned.

Ohio EPA spokesperson James Lee responded with a written statement:

“To date, Dayton has fulfilled all the requirements outlined in Ohio EPA’s letters concerning the investigation of contamination associated with Dayton’s Fire Training Center (FTC). Dayton continues to conduct all required sampling and submits all sampling results to Ohio EPA. They have also submitted all work plans and sampling plans for Ohio EPA review before they are finalized.

WPAFB also continues to conduct all required sampling of their sentinel well network and their public water supply wells for both Area A and B drinking water systems.”

Lee said that the Ohio EPA says the Air Force base must be “more proactive” to address the chemicals before the contamination impacts other wells.

"As both the Ohio EPA and City of Dayton have stated, the drinking water is safe and we intend to continue working closely with all stakeholders to ensure it remains safe," Col. Bradley McDonald, 88th Air Base Wing and Installation Commander said in a recent statement. 

According to McDonald, the Air Force expects "to begin work in June 2018 on an expanded site inspection which will include continued quarterly sentinel well monitoring at the base boundary. If the site inspection determines PFOS/PFOA are migrating off the installation at levels above the EPA advisory, the Air Force will take additional actions."

"We are doing everything we can, and as quickly as we can, to ensure that all of our drinking water is safe,” McDonald continued. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Ohio EPA and the City of Dayton on this important issue.”