Editor’s Note: This article was published as part of a content-sharing agreement between Army Times and The Fayetteville Observer.

Fort Liberty officials are seeking to test Spring Lake well water, while a nonprofit environmental watch group announced this month that chemicals have been found in water supplies at or near 455 military installations across the county.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s analysis of Department of Defense records, 32 parts-per-trillion of the chemical known as perfluorobutane sulfonate was detected in water at Fort Liberty’s Camp Mackall.

The chemical is a member of a larger group of per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances known PFAS or “forever chemicals,” a group of synthetic, potentially harmful chemicals used in household products, industrial processes and firefighting foam.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, health advisories are issued if 2,000 parts per trillion or more of the chemical is detected.

Spring Lake water

Meanwhile, Spring Lake’s Board of Alderman was scheduled to receive information this month about perfluorooctane sulfonate, known as PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, at Fort Liberty.

In a letter to Spring Lake officials, Col. John Wilcox, Fort Liberty’s garrison commander, said that military officials are asking permission to test well water that supplies drinking water on 18 different parcels of land in Spring Lake.

PFOA and PFOS are manmade chemicals also part of the PFAS family.

In the letter, Wilcox said that officials tested groundwater on the installation for the chemicals and found the compounds in the groundwater at higher levels than the EPA’s 2016 health advisory that said the chemical could cause risks at 70 parts per trillion if in drinking water.

The EPA announced an interim health advisory last year in which four parts per trillion of PFOA and PFOS might be the new threshold for issuing health advisories if the chemical is detected in water.

“Because the 2022 health advisories are (at) interim levels based on draft analyses; are below detectable limits; and are (at) non-regulatory levels, Department of Defense is instead looking to EPA to propose a regulatory drinking water standard,” Wilcox said in his letter to Spring Lake officials. “In anticipation of EPA issuing a drinking water regulation and to account for emerging science that may show potential health effects of PFOS and PFOA at levels lower than 70 parts per trillion, the DoD is evaluating its efforts to address PFAS in drinking water and what actions can be taken to be prepared to incorporate a regulatory standard.”

In a statement to The Fayetteville Observer on Friday, Wilcox said letters seeking permission from landowners for a designated water sample are “to ensure the safety and well-being of our local communities.

“We are taking a proactive, measured approach to ensure we are doing our part to keep our neighboring communities safe,” Wilcox said.

Property owners will not be responsible for any costs associated with the collection and analysis of the water samples, officials said.

If results show drinking water contains PFAS at levels above 70 parts per trillion from an Army source, an alternative water supply will be provided until a long-term solution is implemented, officials said.

Previous samples of the chemicals at or around Fort Liberty were found to be below EPA thresholds.

According to the Environmental Working Group, PFAS are known as “forever chemicals,” because “they do not break down and they can build up in our blood and organs.”

The Environmental Working Group states that studies show exposure to the chemical at low levels can increase the risk of cancerharm fetal development and reduce vaccine effectiveness.

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