Navy site in Mechanicsburg to host PFAS open house

  • Marie Cusick

A military installation in Mechanicsburg will hold an open house Wednesday, July 31 to answer questions from the public about possible PFAS contamination of nearby private water wells.

Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg will have experts, as well as state and federal regulators on hand Wednesday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Park Inn on Carlisle Pike.

PFAS is an acronym for a group of man-made chemicals used widely in things like non-stick cookware and firefighting foam. They persist in the environment and can be found in the air, soil, and water. The chemicals have been linked to illnesses, including cancer. But there is uncertainty around how exactly they affect human health and at what doses.

As part of a Navy-wide effort, the installation, which serves as a warehousing and logistics site, has reached out to nearby residents who have private water wells to do testing.

NSA Mechanicsburg spokesman Chris Cleaver said the chemicals were used either in training, firefighting or in storage at eight sites on the 700-acre facility in Cumberland County.

“We did firefighting training on the installation from the ’60s to the early ’90s at several locations,” Cleaver said. “There was a small fire in 2000 that we also used firefighting foam.”

Cleaver said about 75 letters have been sent to nearby property owners.

“We want to proactively get out there, get to the community, and see if there’s a problem with these levels — if they do exist — and then make some decisions about how we can move forward,” he said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating nearly two dozen sites around the state where PFAS contamination is known to have occurred. Most of those are in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The agency also launched a year-long sampling plan in May to test water from more than 300 public water supplies with a higher potential for contamination, based on their proximity to sites such as military bases, fire training sites, landfills, and manufacturing facilities.

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