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NAS Pax River Works with Community Partner to Mitigate AFFF Release

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05/24/21 02:51 PM

PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION, MD – Naval Air Station Patuxent River with community partner St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission (METCOM) mitigated the release of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) after a system reset caused a discharge within an installation aircraft hangar May 16.

The Navy completed replacements at the applicable aviation hangars at NAS Patuxent River to reduce environmental concerns with the legacy AFFF. The newly approved AFFF product does not contain detectable levels (fewer than 25 parts per billion) of the hazardous constituents, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) of greatest concern. 

Each AFFF discharge is treated as a hazardous material release. The environmental and fire departments quickly mobilized and worked to de-foam a holding tank that received the AFFF discharge. The material released on May 16 was the new AFFF (Ansulite 3MS) that does not contain detectable levels of PFOS or PFOA. The swift action by emergency personnel enabled the release of foam to be contained within the local wastewater treatment plant.

“The AFFF discharged after maintenance to the fire suppression system, but METCOM was quick to let us know when it hit a holding tank, and we were able to respond and de-foam it efficiently,” said Capt. John Brabazon, NAS Patuxent River commanding officer.

Brabazon emphasized community cooperation as key to dealing with the issue. “Ease of communications with them and regulatory partners in the state of Maryland helped us to respond and address the issue with minimal impact,” said Brabazon.

“METCOM has a responsibility to the residents of St. Mary’s County on a variety of water issues, including water and wastewater treatment,” said George Erichsen, executive director for METCOM. “As soon as we noticed an issue in our holding tank, the call went out to Pax River, whose environmental and fire departments responded quickly and continued to monitor the situation.”

The cause of the AFFF discharge is under investigation.

Additionally, NAS Patuxent River recently held a public Restoration Advisory Board Meeting to discuss its site assessment of historic uses of legacy AFFF, which contain PFAS, including PFOS and PFOA. PFAS are a class of man-made chemicals found in many consumer products such as stain-resistant textiles, nonstick cookware, food packaging, cleaning products, cosmetics and some AFFFs.

“We understand the public’s concern when it comes to issues like PFAS, which is why we have transitioned to the replacement AFFF like the Ansulite,” said Brabazon. “And as we saw with this, we can further mitigate those concerns with community partnerships.”

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