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Grissom takes proactive approach, begins sampling water for PFCs

Mathew Lipiec, a contracted environmental engineer, collects water from one of four wells near Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., Sept. 2, 2015. The water will be tested for perflourinated compounds (PFCs), a class of synthetic fluorinated organic chemicals used in many industrial and commonly used consumer products. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

Mathew Lipiec, a contracted environmental engineer, collects water from one of four wells near Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., Sept. 2, 2015. The water will be tested for perflourinated compounds (PFCs), a class of synthetic fluorinated organic chemicals used in many industrial and commonly used consumer products. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- Environmental contractors with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center took water samples from four wells near Grissom Air Reserve Base today.

The samples are being tested for perflourinated compounds (PFCs) that exist in aqueous firefighting foam (AFFF) used to extinguish fuel fires since the 1970s.

"We want to get out in front of this," said Col. Doug Schwartz, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander. "We tout ourselves as being responsible members of the community and we want to live up to that."

In addition to the wells the inbound and outbound water from the water treatment plant will also be tested.

The testing of the water samples is being expedited, and the results will be released when they become available.

"Whatever the result, we are going to let people know what's going on," Schwartz said. "We owe that to our neighbors."

The wells being tested are the closest to fire training areas that were used to train Air Force firefighters to battle petroleum driven aircraft fires at the former active base that realigned in 1994.

The foam is no longer used in training and the Air Force is systematically removing it from the field.

"During targeted testing investigators found contamination at about 20 feet below the ground surface of those training sites," Schwartz said. "The active wells in that area are 150-180 feet deep. The amount of soil, clay and rock between the surface contamination and those wells is significant."

Significant or not, the base is being aggressive in its approach to learning and mitigating any risk that may exist.

"This is an emerging science," said Lisa Krawczyk, 434th Base Civil Engineer Squadron environmental engineer. "Researchers are trying to grasp the scope and effect on human exposure of PFCs, and, when necessary, take action to protect people and the environment."

The Air Force is currently testing 82 former and active installations.

"The big picture is we have good people working hard to protect human health," Schwartz said. "Here at Grissom we have a proven track record of resolving issues that affect the community because it's our community too."

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command.

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