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City of Fairbanks Regional Fire Training Center Burn Pit

Database Name: City of Fairbanks Regional Fire Training Center Burn Pit

Status: Active

Location: 1710 30th Avenue, Fairbanks, Alaska

Latitude: 64.821181

Longitude: -147.750245

 

DEC Contaminated Sites contact: Robert Burgess, Project Manager, (907) 451-2153

Contacts updated: Aug. 11, 2016

Summary updated: April 26, 2017


Background

Location of burn pit at Regional Fire Training Center (Shannon & Wilson, August 2014).

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) were first discovered at the City of Fairbanks Regional Fire Training Center (RFTC) in 2015 when the City of Fairbanks sampled standing water contained within the burn pit. In September 2015, Shannon & Wilson, Inc. completed an investigation of soil and groundwater on the RFTC property and found PFCs and petroleum compounds in the groundwater on the site. Although PFCs were also observed in the soil, the concentrations in soil were much lower than in groundwater.


The burn pit is 30 feet in diameter and lined. Firefighting foam containing PFCs is suspected to have leaked through the liner or over-sprayed the edges of the pit during training activities. The burn pit was constructed in 1987 and was used for about 20 years.


Regulatory Health and Cleanup Levels

The DEC published cleanup levels for two types of PFCs, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in groundwater in November 2016. The new groundwater-cleanup levels are described at http://dec.alaska.gov/spar/regulation_projects/cs18AAC75.htm.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a provisional health advisory (PHA) level for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water in 2009. However, in May 2016, the EPA issued a new lifetime health advisory (LHA) level of 70 nanograms per liter (ng/L) for the sum of the PFOS and PFOA concentrations. This new level is significantly lower resulting in an increased need for more widespread investigation of drinking water.


This map shows the results of wells tested for PFCs in the area around the Fairbanks Regional Fire Training Center.


What are PFCs?

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are "emerging contaminants," or chemicals with limited data on human health effects. Two compounds, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are the most studied. PFCs are used in products that resist fire, stains, grease, and water. While PFCs can be found in firefighting foam, they can also be present in furniture and carpets treated for stain resistance, waterproof clothing, and food packaging. Beginning in 2001, 3M and other major manufacturers of fire-fighting foams and consumer products containing PFC-related chemicals began to phase out the use of PFOA and PFOS in these products due to findings that these chemicals can be harmful.


PFCs that enter the environment are known to persist for a long time and may travel long distances in groundwater.


Current Investigations

Due to concern about PFCs in drinking water, the City of Fairbanks began searching for water supply wells (including drinking water wells) immediately after the discovery of PFCs in groundwater.


The search was expanded iteratively between February 2016 and February 2017, and now extends to areas around Peger Lake south of 30th Avenue, the sports fields and other properties between the Mitchell Expressway and Eagan Avenue or Airport Way, and properties on both sides of the Chena River between Loftus Road and University Avenue.


Future Plans

DEC continues to work with the City of Fairbanks to identify additional wells for testing and to install a monitoring well network to help us understand the extent of contamination in the groundwater. The City of Fairbanks is currently providing water to affected residents, and has connected some affected properties to the municipal water system. The City is planning to connect additional homes and businesses to municipal water during the 2017 construction season.


If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Robert Burgess, DECís project manager for the site, at (907) 451-2153 or robert.burgess@alaska.gov.


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