Robins AFB water some of best in state

  • Published
  • By Kent Cummins
  • Robins Public Affairs

A recent Department of Defense report reveals Robins Air Force Base’s drinking water is safe.


Not only is the drinking water supply safe, according to Robins AFB bioenvironmental experts, the drinking water here is some of the best in Georgia.


“The Blufftown aquifer where the base gets its drinking water is one of the safest and most reliable sources of high-quality water in the state,” said Lt. Col. Francisco J. Catalá, 78th Medical Group Bioenvironmental Engineering flight commander.


Robins pumps its water from the Blufftown aquifer which is located about 300 feet below the surface. The aquifer is protected by a natural layer of clay and sediment, which filters and protects the water source.


To ensure the drinking water remains safe and pure, the base bioenvironmental engineering team regularly samples and analyzes the installation’s drinking water and produces an annual report explaining the results. This report is published by July every year and available through the website.


According to the most recent Robins Water Quality Report, rain water percolates down into the Blufftown Aquifer through layers of soil and sand, which act as natural cleansing filters to remove impurities.


The Water Quality Report also states “the base’s drinking water is drawn from one of the best sources of water in the state and is a safe and reliable source that provides high-quality water that is free of micro-organisms, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium that are sometimes found in rivers and lakes.”


While Robins drinking water is safe, the March 2018 DOD report, which includes water sampling data for 126 Air Force installations, did point to the presence of two types of perfluorinated hydrocarbons, or PFCs, in three of Robins’ shallow groundwater monitoring wells. The PFCs present are called Perfluorooctane Sulfonate, or PFOS, and Perfluorooctanoic Acid, or PFOA. These surface groundwater wells are not associated with the base’s deep aquifer drinking water source.


PFCs are synthetic chemicals used in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpet, food packaging and firefighting foam, called Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF. The AFFF has been used since the 1970s to extinguish petroleum fires at military and civilian airports across the United States.


Samples of groundwater at three locations on Robins surpassed the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion. The EPA health advisory of 70 ppt was set to protect the country’s most susceptible populations from the potential impact of long-term exposure. 


PFC’s are classified as emerging contaminants, which means the risk to human health and the environment is not known. The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet established federal regulatory standards; however, Robins started taking steps in 2016 to replace all AFFF with a more environmentally sound firefighting product with Phos-Chek 3 percent, six carbon chain AFFF in August 2016. Phos-Chek is PFOS free and contains only trace amounts of PFOA.


The Air Force has also retrofitted emergency response vehicles with a nozzle to prevent unintended discharge of foam, and is replacing foam in hangar suppression systems as the facilities are renovated or upgraded. As a further precaution, base firefighters have also implemented procedures for use of the new safer foam, treating any uncontained releases as if it were a hazardous-material spill requiring immediate cleanup.


“We are committed to protecting human health and the environment,” said Col. Lyle Drew, 78th Air Base Wing commander. “The Air Force has a proven track record of resolving contamination issues at both active and closed bases.”


Although Robins drinking water is safe, clean and protected, we will continue to monitor shallow groundwater areas across the installation, according to Gary Schneider, the installation’s 78th Civil Engineer Group director. “We are very happy that Robins AFB has access to one of the purist water aquifers in the great state of Georgia, and we will remain good stewards of the environment by ensuring we protect this pristine natural resource for generations to come.”