Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:

PLATTSBURGH AIR FORCE BASE
PLATTSBURGH, NY

Health & Environment

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What Are the Risks at the Site?

Risk from exposure to contamination remaining at the former Plattsburgh AFB is extremely limited. Under current conditions at the former base, potential or actual human exposures are under control.

Historically, site contaminants originally included volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethene (TCE), dichloroethene (DCE), and vinyl chloride, fuel-related compounds (mainly benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene), pesticides, various metals including chromium and cadmium, and lead and munitions waste from an old small arms range and an explosive ordnance demolition range. As stated in others sections of this site profile, most of the formerly contaminated areas have been cleaned up. In addition to groundwater contamination, other potential exposures included direct contact with and ingestion of contaminants found in soil. The only known remaining soil contamination at the former base is at the landfills, which have been capped and are fenced off.

Groundwater is not used as a drinking water supply on former base property, and drinking water is supplied by the City of Plattsburgh. The source for the municipal water supply is located approximately 10 miles up gradient of the former base. Therefore any contaminants previously or currently located at the former base are not of concern with respect to the municipal drinking water supply. However, exposure could occur in areas of groundwater contamination if property transferees were to install drinking water wells on their property. As discussed in other sections of this site profile, Land Use Controls / Institutional Controls´╗┐ (LUC/ICs), contained in property deeds, restrict groundwater usage in affected areas.

Approximately 2,000 people obtain drinking water from private wells located within three miles of the base. Off base residents living in close proximity to the base could be exposed to contaminants if infiltration of private groundwater wells by any contamination from the former base were to occur. Contaminant migration in groundwater and surface water has been studied and addressed on a base-wide level with respect to the potential for negative impacts on human and ecological receptors associated with Lake Champlain, the Salmon River, the Saranac River, and off base groundwater users. Sentry wells were installed on base at all potentially affected areas near the base boundary down gradient of contaminant sources prior to 2001, and additional wells have been added since that time. Regular monitoring of these wells is conducted so that if groundwater contaminants were to migrate towards the base boundary, remedial and/or mitigation measures could be taken by the Air Force prior to any contaminant migration off base.

However, more recently, Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have become potential contaminants posing risk to nearby off-base groundwater users.  PFAS have recently been detected on the former base as well as in off-base drinking water wells.  PFAS recently became contaminants of concern due to studies conducted by various agencies and organizations across the U.S. regarding their health effects and potential cancer-causing properties. PFAS are classified as an Emerging Contaminant and were not historically investigated at the former base. The Air Force has notified down gradient off-base groundwater users, sampled off-base drinking water wells, and installed treatment systems at residences where PFAS concentrations were above the Health Advisory Levels (HALs). The Air Force continues to sample the treatment systems and drinking water at off-base residences regularly to ensure that the HAL is not exceeded. See the Contaminant Information section below and other parts of this site profile for more information regarding PFAS. EPA, NYSDEC, and NYSDOH provide close oversight of all Air Force PFAS activities.

 

Additional potential risk to human health exists due to soil vapor intrusion (SVI) into buildings by VOCs. However, this contaminant pathway has been extensively studied across the entire base, mainly in association with the FT-002 / Industrial Area Groundwater OU. Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) systems were installed at three buildings in the industrial area of the base where concentrations of VOCs warranted mitigation and/or remediation. In addition, a large portion of the base is covered by a LUC/IC for SVI that requires either mitigation of risk or sampling and evaluation of risk prior to the construction of new buildings or modifications to or change in use of existing buildings. Any sampling and risk evaluations conducted would be reviewed by the Air Force and regulatory agencies, and continued monitoring or mitigation, as necessary, would be required. Affected property owners must also certify compliance annually with the Air Force, which also conducts annual LUC/IC inspections.

Additional information on site contaminants and risks can be found in the Administrative Record for the site (see below).

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Contaminant Information

Key contaminants of concern at the former base include chlorinated solvents (mainly TCE) and petroleum-related compounds.  These resulted from spills occuring during airport-related activites when the former base was still in operation.  Also, more recently, Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have become key contaminants of concern. Previous Air Force use of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which contains PFAS, has led to contamination of several areas of the former base, in groundwater, surface water, and soil.  PFAS have also been detected in off-base drinking water wells.  The Air Force used AFFF during fire training exercises as well as to control a number of fires.  AFFF was also stored at the base fire station and at several other locations where there was potential risk of fire.  See PFAS discussions elsewhere in this site profile for information regarding current Air Force investigations and off-base mitigation activities. EPA, NYSDEC, and NYSDOH provide close oversight of all Air Force PFAS activities. 

View a full list of contaminants of concern for this site.

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Performance Measures

EPA uses performance measures to track environmental results at Superfund sites. If you have any questions or concerns about the measures at this site, please contact the site team members listed under Site Contacts.

Read more about Superfund Remedial Performance Measures.

Performance
Measure
Status at this
Superfund Site
What does this mean?
Human Exposure Under Control Yes Yes means assessments indicate that across the entire site:
  1. There are currently no unacceptable human exposure pathways; and
  2. EPA has determined the site is under control for human exposure.

No means an unsafe level of contamination has been detected at the site and a reasonable expectation exists that people could be exposed.

Insufficient data means that, due to uncertainty regarding exposures, one cannot draw conclusions as to whether human exposures are controlled, typically because:
  1. Response to the contamination has not begun; or
  2. The response has begun, but it has not yet generated information sufficiently reliable to evaluate whether there are currently any unacceptable human exposure pathways at the site.
Groundwater Migration Under Control Yes

Yes means EPA reviewed all information on known and reasonably expected groundwater contamination. EPA concluded the migration of contaminated groundwater is stabilized and there is no unacceptable discharge to surface water. EPA will conduct monitoring to confirm that affected groundwater remains in the original area of contamination.

No means EPA has reviewed all information on known and reasonably expected groundwater contamination, and the migration of contaminated groundwater is not stabilized.

Insufficient data means that due to uncertainty regarding contaminated groundwater migration, EPA cannot draw conclusions as to whether the migration of contaminated groundwater is stabilized.

Construction Complete No

Yes means the physical construction of the cleanup is complete for the entire site.

No means either physical construction is not complete or actions are still needed to address contamination.

Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use No Yes means:
  1. All cleanup goals affecting current and reasonably anticipated future land uses of the entire site have been achieved, so there are no unacceptable risks;
  2. All required land-use restrictions or other controls have been put in place; and
  3. The site has achieved Construction Complete status.

No means that one or more of these three criteria have not been met. However, a site listed as no may still have redevelopment occurring on portions of the site and may be eligible for additional redevelopment.

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