Berkeley County (WV) near Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base

Berkeley County

PFAS Exposure Assessment Community Level Results

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) started exposure assessments (EAs) in communities near current or former military bases known to have had per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their drinking water. Individuals who participated in the EAs provided blood and urine samples to CDC/ATSDR for analysis. We sent letters to participants that included their individual lab results. An example letter of the test results letter and the community level results are available here. We also sent local health care providers exposure assessment information and clinician guidance on PFAS pdf icon[PDF – 471 KB].


The Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base previously used aqueous film-forming foam containing PFAS to fight fires and train workers. These compounds later moved off-site in groundwater, likely affecting the City of Martinsburg’s Big Springs well. Drinking water from this well supplies both City of Martinsburg and a small percentage of Berkeley County customers. Residents who may have been affected include those who live in areas south of the Big Springs treatment plant and those City of Martinsburg residents who are connected to the municipal water supply and live west of Interstate 81 (I-81) or in the Amber Woods housing complex (east of I-81).

PFAS was first detected in the Big Springs well in February 2014. Levels did not exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provisional health advisory level (level used in 2014). In 2016, EPA issued a health advisory (HA) for the sum of two PFAS compounds — perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) —at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). This prompted the City of Martinsburg to take its Big Springs well out of service until a treatment system was installed to remove PFAS from the well water. Martinsburg now conducts routine monitoring to ensure treatment is effectively removing PFAS to levels well below the revised health advisory. In 2017, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) tested for PFOS/PFOA in private well water in the vicinity of the base. All water sample results were below EPA’s HA for PFOS and PFOA. 

Participating in an exposure assessment helps individual participants and their community better understand the extent of environmental exposures to PFAS. A random selection of households impacted by PFAS in their drinking water were be identified. Selected households received a letter in the mail from CDC/ATSDR explaining the exposure assessment and registration process. They also received a phone call from a representative to answer questions and register them for the exposure assessment. Household members were eligible if they were 3 years of age or older, did not have a bleeding disorder and were not anemic, and have lived in the recruitment area since May 9, 2015. Inclusion of children in the exposure assessment was dependent on parent or legal guardian consent.

Sampling Area

The map shows the sampling area where the exposure assessment will occur. It focuses on an area where residential tap water PFOA and/or PFOS concentrations were above federal or state guidelines. The boundary of this area represents Berkeley County residents who live south of the Big Springs treatment plant and City of Martinsburg residents who are connected to the municipal water supply and live west of Interstate 81 (I-81) or in the Amber Woods housing complex.


CDC/ATSDR began an exposure assessment in Berkeley County in summer 2019. Recruitment took approximately 6 weeks. CDC/ATSDR was in Berkeley County from September 24 through October 7, 2019 to test participants. 

CDC/ATSDR completed the analysis of environmental and biological samples. Individual test results were mailed to participants on May 15, 2020. If you participated in the exposure assessment and have not received your individual test results, please contact ATSDR at CDC and ATSDR will write a final report summarizing the findings and recommendations for the community and present the results at a public meeting.

Timeline of Exposure Assessment for Berkeley County. The following steps have been completed: information session, recruitment, and field work/sample collection. Currently analyzing samples. Next steps are individual test results are mailed and community meeting.

Information Session

For information on work being done in Berkeley County, WV, contact Bob Helverson, Regional Representative, 215-814-3139,

Page last reviewed: December 7, 2020