SUMTER, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Environmental Control (DHEC) and Shaw Air Force Base are working to help residents living in two mobile home parks near the installation after a chemical compound was discovered in their water.

Residents living in American Mobile Home Park and Crescent Mobile Home Park in Sumter received bottled water and faucet filters from DHEC and Shaw Air Force Base after per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFOS/PFAS) were found in their drinking water.

The substance can be found in military firefighting foam. 

"They came out and was giving everybody in the area the water filters," says Victoria Evans, who has lived in the American Mobile Home Park for the past two years. "I didn't know that was an issue. So it sounds like something they picked up on and they are trying to catch it before it gets worse."

Water filters and water jugs were distributed to homes in that area.

"We have a lot of old people out here that may be here for the long run," says Evans. "So, I understand why they would want to jump ahead of it."

DHEC sampled the water at both mobile home parks in January of 2020 and found the chemicals, which aren't regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Testing showed that both mobile home parks had levels of PFOS/PFAS higher than the EPA's lifetime health advisory limit.

The EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory for PFOS and PFOA is an advisory, and isn’t an enforceable regulatory standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The chemicals have been used by the military in firefighting foam since the 1970's.

Shaw Air Force Base acknowledged that they are a "likely contributor to the PFOS/PFOA in this water," and released a statement saying:

After the Air Force received and reviewed the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's results of recent drinking water samples obtained at Crescent and American Mobile Home Park, immediate measures were taken by providing bottled water to the residents of the park. SCDHEC's results showing PFOS/PFOA at levels above the EPA's lifetime health advisory were obtained through an appropriately certified laboratory and by an accepted test method, and the Air Force has determined that Shaw AFB is a likely contributor to the PFOS/PFOA in this water. 

We will continue planned additional off-base sampling of drinking water supplies in off-base areas down-gradient of known PFOS/PFOA areas. Beginning February 10, 2020, the Air Force began conducting sampling of drinking water wells up to one mile south of Shaw Air Force Base to test for potential impacts from PFOS/PFOA. Our focus is on ensuring no one is drinking water above the EPA's 70 parts per trillion lifetime health advisory and if the Air Force identifies drinking water sources with PFOS/PFOA at levels above the EPA's LHA, we will take immediate steps to provide alternate drinking water supplies.  

PFOS and PFOA are synthetic fluorinated organic compounds used in many industrial and consumer products, and in foam used by commercial industries and the armed services to extinguish fuel fires. These chemicals have been used for many years to make products that resist heat, stains, grease and water. In 1970, the Air Force began using Aqueous Film Forming Foam, which contains PFOS and PFOA, to extinguish petroleum fires. AFFF is the most efficient extinguishing method for petroleum-based fires and is widely used across the firefighting industry, to include all commercial airports, to protect people and property. To date, Shaw has replaced all the foam in the fire trucks and hangar prevention systems.

The United States Air Force has been investigating the chemical exposure at bases around the nation.

Long-term exposure to the chemical has been linked to cancer, liver and thyroid problems, but DHEC says no known health effects have been linked to short-term exposure. 

"It’s important to note that previous testing of the Sumter public water system did not detect PFOA or PFAS," says DHEC spokeswoman Laura Renwick. "At this time, only the Crescent Mobile Home Park and American Mobile Home Plaza water systems show levels of PFOA and PFOS that are greater than the EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory."

For more information from DHEC, click on the link here.