Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

By Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

The Navy has agreed to install a filtering system in the Town of Coupeville’s water system to lower the level of a chemical that comes from a type of firefighting foam.

The granulated activated carbon system will remove per- and polyfluoroakyl substances, known as PFAS, from the town’s drinking water.

The Navy will also connect 10 families outside of town limits with contaminated wells to the Coupeville system, Navy officials reported.

Kendra Leibman, remedial project manager with Navy Facilities Engineering Command, said that the filtering system will lower the level of the chemical in the water, not remove it entirely. Details of the filtering system’s design aren’t finalized, she said.

Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes reports that the project won’t cost ratepayers anything.

The Navy will pay for the system and annual operation, she wrote.

“They are voluntarily adding treatment to our public water system, at no cost to our water customers, even though currently, there are no state or national mandatory regulations pertaining to PFAS compounds,” she wrote.

“They have been a conscientious neighbor, wanting to do the right thing in this unfortunate situation.”

Two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency set a lifetime health advisory level for perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, at 70 parts per trillion. The chemicals are considered “emerging contaminants” with possible health effects.

The Navy tested private wells surrounding Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s Ault Field and Outlying Field Coupeville; eight wells serving 10 families near OLF Coupeville were found to have water with levels above the advisory level.

The town’s independent testing of the municipal water system found PFOA levels of 62 and 59 parts per trillion in two samples taken at its Keystone well.

Neither of the chemicals were detected in three wells at Fort Casey.

The town also tested the water at the entry point of the distribution system, which is after the water from all four wells is blended.

Two samples showed PFOA levels at 25 ppt and 27 ppt.

The Town of Coupeville, however, plans to increase the amount of water pumped from the Keystone well, which would likely increase the level of PFOA in the blended water that goes to customers.

Leibman said the increase in Keystone well usage was one factor considered when making the decision to install a filtering system. She said officials also wanted to “maintain protectiveness” in case the levels of the chemicals increase or the advisory level decreases in the future.

The system will be designed by CH2M, a nationally recognized engineering firm, Hughes wrote.

Leibman said the Navy evaluated options for providing permanent sources of clean water for rural residents with contaminated wells.

The Navy provided families with bottled water since the results came back last year. Connecting the rural residents to the town’s water system was chosen as the best option, she said.

Those involved in the discussion included officials from the Navy, town, Island County Public Health, state Ecology, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Greenbank resident Richard Abraham has repeatedly urged officials at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center to install a filtering system at the hospital, located in Coupeville and on town water.

Abraham pointed out that the school system is also on town water.

“It’s not just about the Town of Coupeville,” he said.

Abraham has also tried to get the results of the Navy’s latest tests, which looked for the presence of 14 different PFAS chemicals.

Leibman confirmed that the Navy has the results, but said she isn’t authorized to release them. They were shared with affected rural homeowners, but not town residents.

Leibman said the timeline for installing the filtering system and connection of the rural houses hasn’t been determined.

After that work is complete, she said, the Navy will work to delineate the extent of the chemical plume at OLF Coupeville.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Tonya Isabell, left, speaks Thursday, June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles, pictured at right, on the third anniversary of her death, in Seattle. Lyles was shot and killed by Seattle police. Also in attendance at the vigil were family members of nearly two dozen people killed by police across the country who traveled to Seattle to urge police reform, an issue renewed by protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle to pay $3.5M to settle police wrongful-death suit

Police killed Charleena Lyles at her home in 2017, after she called 911 to report a burglary.

Keith Wagoner
Senator becomes first GOP candidate for secretary of state

Sen. Keith Wagoner will challenge Democrat Steve Hobbs, who was appointed to the statewide post in November

COVID vaccine verification digital record offered in Washington

WA Verify generates a QR code that can be scanned to show that a person is fully vaccinated.

Amazon workers in Alabama get a do-over in union election

The NRLB says Amazon may have created the false impression that the company was the one conducting the election process.

Reagan Dunn to take on U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier in 8th District

The Republican is challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Schrier in a district which could include a slice of Snohomish County.

FILE - In this March 9, 2021, file photo, House members meet in the Statehouse, in Boise, Idaho. An Idaho law banning nearly all abortions would take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion. The court with a 6-3 conservative majority on Wednesday, Dec. 1 starts hearing arguments over a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File)
Most Idaho abortions banned if Roe v. Wade is overturned

That would leave the nearest providers for people from Idaho in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Colorado.

Northwest residents urged to stay alert as storms roll in

The big question is how communities that saw heavy damage earlier from the previous storm will fare.

Feds: Dams helped prevent more severe Skagit River flooding

The Army Corps of Engineers says flooding in Skagit County would have been catastrophic if not for the Ross and Upper Baker dams holding back the rush of rainwater.

Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Puget Sound-based Carrier Strike Group 11, in Bremerton on Nov. 23, 2021. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Justin McTaggart)
From Everett, this rear admiral commands a Navy strike group

Christopher Sweeney leads Carrier Strike Group 11, a force of aircraft and ships stretching from here to San Diego.

Most Read