Spokane County (WA) near Fairchild Air Force Base
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].
Fairchild Air Force Base used aqueous film-forming foam containing PFAS for firefighting training in the past. The foam was also used to extinguish fires from aircraft crashes at two sites near the Base. Groundwater sources for the city of Airway Heights’s drinking water supply system were contaminated with PFAS.
PFAS were first detected in the Airway Heights water system during sampling by the Air Force in May 2017. Water from three wells had PFAS concentrations higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) health advisory level (HA). The HA is 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for two PFAS (PFOS and PFOA), individually or combined.
Immediately after PFAS were detected, the City of Airway Heights alerted customers and took actions to ensure the quality of the drinking water.
These actions included removing the contaminated drinking water supply wells from service, flushing the water lines, placing temporary restrictions on use of water for drinking and cooking, and distributing bottled water to residents. The City also secured an alternate source of uncontaminated drinking water through interconnections with the City of Spokane. In June 2017, the City declared the water safe to drink. The water in Airway Heights’ system primarily comes from the City of Spokane. In 2018, the city of Airway Heights installed granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment on one of its wells. This well is only used to meet peak demands during summer months.
Based on the information that ATSDR has reviewed, the public drinking water supply in Airway Heights currently meets all applicable guidelines for PFAS.
CDC/ATSDR collected and tested tap water samples from 19 households that receive City of Airway Heights municipal water. PFAS levels for all samples were below laboratory detection levels.
ATSDR does not recommend that community members who use City of Airway Heights municipal water switch to alternate sources.
CDC/ATSDR began an exposure assessment in Airway Heights in fall 2019. Recruitment of participants took approximately 6 weeks. After that, CDC/ATSDR was in Airway Heights from November 4 through November 14, 2019 to test participants.
CDC/ATSDR completed the analysis of environmental and biological samples. Individual test results were mailed to participants on May 29, 2020. If you participated in the exposure assessment and have not received your individual test results, please contact ATSDR at PFAS@cdc.gov. CDC/ATSDR will write a final report summarizing the findings and recommendations for the community and present the results at a public meeting.