Thursday, September 22, 2016

Traces of hazardous chemical PFOS found underground at Eastside Fire and Rescue's headquarters in Issaquah, WA

by: Gary Horcher Updated: Sep 21, 2016 - 1:24 AM

ISSAQUAH, Wash. - While searching for the source of hazardous chemical contamination in the Lower Issaquah Aquifer, researchers discovered traces of the same chemical in soils behind Eastside Fire and Rescue's headquarters at 175 Newport Way Northwest.

Experts say more tests are needed to determine if the site is the possible source of the contamination or if the chemical plume can be traced to another location.

Perfluorooctane sulfonate, commonly called PFOS, has not been manufactured in the U.S. since 2000. It was commonly used in heavy-duty firefighting foam since the 1950s, especially at airports and military bases. Laboratory animals tested with PFOS suffered liver, thyroid, developmental and immune system damage.

According to a study released by Geosyntec Consultants, hired by the city of Issaquah to investigate the contamination, Eastside Fire and Rescue's headquarters training area "Is a potential source of PFOS to groundwater and should be investigated further."

Eastside Fire and Rescue deputy chief Richard Burke told KIRO 7 his department learned about the study last week and released the information to the public immediately.

"Our No. 1 mission is public health and the care of our community," said Burke. "We want to make sure that we identify clearly whatever we have on this site." Burke said foam containing PFOS hasn't been used in Issaquah for almost 15 years. It's been replaced with safer, biodegradable foam, Burke said.

Months ago, the City of Issaquah found levels of PFOS in some water wells beyond what the EPA recommends. The city committed nearly $1 million to install large filter systems to strain the chemical out, making the water safe to drink.

The treated water is free of PFOS and completely safe, according to the city.

Burke told KIRO 7 that Eastside Fire and Rescue will hire its own experts to find out if firefighter chemical training there years ago led to groundwater contamination.

"If this is a source, the source, if it could be a source, what's the best way to clean it up? How do we identify it? What's the path to make sure we're protecting our community? Those are questions we will answer," said Burke.