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HEALTH CONSULTATION

USAF BROOKS AIR FORCE BASE
SAN ANTONIO, BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS


STATEMENT OF ISSUES

Contamination from Fire Protection Training Area #2 (FPTA2) has been detected in groundwater under the southwestern portion of Brooks Air Force Base (BAFB). Sampling and analysis of water wells located southwest of BAFB has detected contamination by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in groundwater, with the contaminant plume extending off-base. The Honorable Ciro Rodriguez, of the 28th District, Texas, United States House of Representatives, requested that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) evaluate environmental information to determine whether this contamination represents a public health hazard.

ATSDR concludes that the groundwater contamination associated with Fire Protection Training Area #2 does not present a public health hazard.


BACKGROUND

Members of the community have expressed concern about contamination detected in groundwater. The contamination has been detected in a "plume" extending off-base from the southwestern boundary of the base. The community's primary concern is that the contamination may affect their health.

The pathways of exposure that were of concern to community members are:

  • domestic use of water, including drinking, bathing, inhaling steam during showering, or other incidental contact with the water during household use;
  • Inhalation for contaminants that may migrate from groundwater through the soil as soil gas;
  • dermal contact with surface water bodies recharged by contaminated groundwater;
  • inhalation of, or dermal contact with, byproducts from the treatment facility; and
  • contact with treated air and water released from the treatment facilities.

ATSDR evaluated the potential for exposure based on the each of the ways people could be exposed to groundwater contaminants. No one is drinking the water or using it for other domestic purposes, such as bathing (1,2,3, 4). Our evaluations are, therefore, conservative and protective, using assumptions which overestimate the potential for actual exposure.

The groundwater contamination consists of volatile organic compounds, specifically waste solvents, disposed at the FPTA2. This contamination was first detected during BAFB environmental program sampling activities conducted in the 1980s (4). A regular program of sampling and analysis has monitored the extent of the contaminant plume since that time. As a part of the ongoing environmental restoration program at BAFB, a treatment system was constructed in 1997 to extract contaminated groundwater and remove the contaminants. This system will both halt the further movement of groundwater offsite and reduce the existing levels of VOCs in the groundwater (5). Municipal water supplies have been provided to the residents in the vicinity since 1959 and no private wells have been used to provide water for domestic use since that time (1).


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Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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