Record high concentrations of PFAS detected in groundwater around Kadena Air Base

Record high concentrations of PFAS detected in groundwater around Kadena Air Base

January 22, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo


On January 18, the Okinawa Environmental Preservation Division announced the results of the summer water quality survey that was conducted last September in the areas surrounding U.S. military bases to assess organic fluorine compound (PFAS) contamination. The use and manufacture of PFOS and PFOA are regulated around the world. In residential groundwater in the area around Kadena Air Base, PFOS and PFOA were detected at a combined concentration of 3000 nanograms per liter. This concentration is 60 times the provisional guidance value (50 nanograms per liter) set by the Ministry of the Environment and the highest level recorded since the survey was first conducted in 2016. In the area around Futenma Air Station, as well, the chemicals were detected at a concentration of 2000 nanograms per liter in the natural spring Majikina Ga in Ginowan City. This is also a record high for the area.


Regarding the high contamination levels, representatives of the prefecture said “we believe that it is likely a consequence of the military bases. We plan to ask the national government to conduct a survey and to develop countermeasures.” Because of international regulations, the U.S. military limits the use of PFOS and PFOA. However, these chemicals largely do not break down in the environment, and so contamination persists.


Fifty-four locations were surveyed in the areas around Kadena Air Base, Futenma Air Station, Camp Zukeran, Camp McTureous, Camp Hansen, and Camp Schwab. At 36 of these locations, the levels detected exceeded the Ministry of the Environment’s provisional guidance value. In the area around Kadena Air Base, well water and spring water were examined in 14 locations. At every location surveyed, concentrations exceeded the levels recommended by the Ministry of the Environment.


Around Futenma Air Station, concentration levels at 11 of 19 locations exceeded the Ministry’s guidance value. The same was true at six of the nine locations examined around Camp McTureous and three of the five locations around Camp Hansen. Concentrations detected at the three locations surveyed around Camp Schwab did not exceed recommended levels.


(English translation by T&CT and Ellen Huntley)


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