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 on 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,”
“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.”