AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. – It has been more than six months since we learned about the water contamination in Airway Heights. The widespread contamination was traced back to foam used by firefighters on Fairchild Airforce Base.
KREM 2’s Whitney Ward investigated the contamination from Fairchild that has impacted countless public and private wells across Airway Heights. We received a lot of feedback after the story aired. So, Whitney Ward sat down again with the commander of Fairchild Air Force Base again to get an update on the situation.
A big takeaway from Whitney’s investigation is that the firefighting foam called AFFF was used for decades at Fairchild. It leached something called PFOS/PFOA into the groundwater, potentially impacting thousands of people.
After Whitney’s report KREM 2 received a lot of questions. A lot of people commented that it is shocking that this much contamination took place and that we did not know sooner. A lot of people also said they were not surprised. Another question we got was complaints from the firefighting foam in other places, including commercial airports. When we first learned of the contamination in May, KREM 2 asked about that foam at commercial airports. The Spokane International Airport said over the last 20 years the airport’s Fire and Rescue Department used less than 30 gallons of AFFF and it was usually over a paved surface, not the dirt like the old burn pit at Fairchild. With that being said, PFOA/PFOS was detected at three of four monitoring wells on airport property at levels higher than 70pptf. However, none of those wells were used for drinking water. As a former military base, the airport has long been established as a restoration site. That is the responsibility of the Department of Defense.
Another question KREM 2 received was why the city was simply flushing the bad water back out on to the ground to go right back into the aquifer. Whitney Ward spoked with the Department of Ecology. She learned it did not make a difference because the groundwater is already contaminated so crews were not putting anything in the ground that was not already there. People are now wondering what the long-term solution is. Colonel Samuelson said that conversation is still being had. Colonel Samuelson said anyone who still has questions about the city’s water or private wells should reach out to them. He admits it is a lengthy process but he says Fairchild and the Air Force are committed to finding solutions.