Search for toxic chemicals expands at former Navy base in Brunswick

This 2011 aerial photo shows the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The Navy plans to extends its search of the site for chemical contamination that has caused alarm near military bases in other states. Contributed photo

The Navy plans to expand its search on the former Brunswick Naval Air Station property for potential contamination from chemical compounds that have caused health alarms near military bases in New Hampshire and other states.

On Thursday, the board charged with overseeing environmental cleanup at the former Navy air station will discuss the results of tests on the base and in nearby private wells for the presence of perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs. Restoration Advisory Board members also are slated to discuss a Navy proposal to conduct additional rounds of basewide testing for PFCs.

Once a common component of firefighting foams as well as chemicals used in household products, PFCs now are listed as an “emerging contaminant” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The class of chemicals has made headlines in places such as Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where adults and children living near the former Pease Air Force Base were found to have substantially elevated PFC levels in their blood.

The PFC contamination in Brunswick is believed to be less of a cause for concern.

Recent testing of more than 30 private wells just outside of the base detected PFCs in some samples, but at low levels far short of the EPA’s “health advisory” threshold.

“I think the results were encouraging and quite positive,” said Chris Evans, an environmental hydrogeologist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which worked closely with the Navy to determine whether PFCs were seeping into groundwater supplies outside the former base.

Yet the Navy knows of contamination above EPA’s advisory levels in several areas of the base, including a fire training location and a former storage facility, known as Building 653, for fire suppressant foam….

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