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Okinawa Prefecture detects high concentration of PFAS near U.S. bases

  • March 3, 2020
  • , Ryukyu Shimpo , p. 24
  • JMH Translation

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), possible carcinogens, have been detected in high concentrations in riverbeds and springs near U.S. bases in Okinawa. In response, the environmental department of the Okinawa prefectural government conducted its own tests near the bases and elsewhere in the prefecture over the period between October and November last year. The prefecture announced the test results on Mar. 2. The results revealed at many locations a level of contamination with perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that exceed the maximum safe level of lifetime exposure in drinking water established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Such a level was found at 21 of 25 tested locations near the Hija River that flows through the Kadena airbase, 9 of 12 locations near the Futenma airfield and Camp Zukeran, and 1 out of 3 locations at the Tengan River.


According to the EPA, the safe level of lifetime exposure is 70 nanograms per liter of combined PFOA and PFOS. Spring water and well water tested near the Hija River, which flows through the Kadena airbase, contained 170 to 2100 nanograms of PFOS and PFOA, while areas near the Futenma airfield and Camp Zukeran had 120 to 1,000 nanograms of the contaminants. The Tengan River tested at 150 nanograms.


It has been pointed out that the source of PFAS contamination near the U.S. bases is foam fire extinguishers used by the U.S. military. The recent tests covering areas around the Kadena airbase showed that the amount of 6:2 FTS, a suspected byproduct of foam fire extinguishers, was sometimes as high as 790 nanograms per liter, suggesting a link between the contamination and the use of the extinguishers.


The tests also detected an organofluorine compound called PFHxS, whose global regulation is currently being sought, in the vicinity of the Kadena airbase (0.1 to 720 nanograms per liter), in the vicinity of the Futenma airbase and Camp Zukeran (11 to 470 nanograms), and at the Tengan River (0.9 to 24 nanograms).

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