Schenectady County

Past chemical use not likely to threaten Stratton neighbors

The pollutant, which is a key ingredient in firefighting foams used at the Stratton base, is similar
Crew members prepare to board the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia on Friday, October 17, 2014.
Crew members prepare to board the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia on Friday, October 17, 2014.

Air Force officials say it’s highly unlikely the Glenville Air National Guard’s past chemical use at the airbase will affect nearby residents, even as several such bases in the country are being reviewed for contamination.

The Air National Guard is investigating its Stratton base after the facility was found to have intermittently used firefighting foam since the 1950s that contained PFOS, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced in September.

The testing is part of an Air Force initiative to check any site where the foam may have been used. Initial tests will be conducted on the base, a spokesman for the Air Force said, and the risk of contamination for Glenville residents is considered extremely low.

“The Air Force is conducting on-base sampling only at this time,” said Mark Kinkade, chief of public affairs for the Air Force’s Civil Engineering Center.

If the initial testing shows there’s a possibility for chemicals to contaminate drinking water supplies outside the base, the Air Force will work with local agencies to protect health and the environment, he said.

Chris Koetzle, Glenville town supervisor, said the Woodhaven neighborhood that borders the Stratton base is mostly on town water and uses closed water systems.

“The likelihood of contamination is very small,” Koetzle said. “Although the risk is low, we’re thrilled they’re testing.”

PFOS, or perfluroctanesulfonic acid, is a pollutant similar to PFOA, which was found in abnormally high levels in the drinking water of residents in Hoosick Falls. Both chemicals have been linked to cancer and other health issues.

PFOS is a key ingredient in the fabric protector Scotchgard and in firefighting foams like those once used at the Stratton Air National Guard base.

The chemical is used in “aqueous film forming foam,” which has been in the Air Force inventory for several decades, Kinkade said. It is used to control petroleum-based fires.

In August, the Air Force awarded a $6.2 million contract to replace the foam with a more environmentally friendly foam that is PFOS-free, Kinkade said. The foam replacement will be complete by the end of the year.

Both PFOS and PFOA fall under the broader category of PFC chemicals. In its testing so far, the Air Force has identified 14 installations where PFC values exceed the federal Environmental Protection Agency health advisory for drinking water sources, Kinkade said. Those installations include Stewart Air National Guard Base in Orange County, New York, which was designated as a Superfund site in August because of the contamination. The designation means the state would seek to have the U.S. Department of Defense pay for cleanup costs.

The state DEC said in September that field work at Stratton is expected to begin in December.

PFOS is unregulated at the federal level; however, the DEC in April added the chemical to the state’s list of hazardous substances.

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