24 Bases with reported TCE water contamination
(Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

McChord Air Force Base

Tacoma, WA

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McChord Air Force Base (McCAFB), an active aircraft station covering 4,616 acres, is approximately 7 miles south of Tacoma, in Pierce County, Washington. The base served as a bomber base during World War II. The base currently stations C-141 Starlifter aircraft and provides for the airlift of troops, equipment, passengers, and mail. Operations at the base have involved the use, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials, including industrial solvents, cleaning compounds, electroplating chemicals, heavy metals, low-level radioactive wastes, and various fuel oils and lubricants. McCAFB has identified 65 locations on base as confirmed or potential sources of contamination; contaminant characterization is ongoing.
In 1983, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in private well water at an off-base residential area in the northeast corner of the American Lake Garden Tract (ALGT). Contaminated groundwater plumes emanating from McCAFB are responsible for VOC contamination in those private wells. McCAFB first provided potentially affected homes bottled water; later the base offered ALGT residents connections to a municipal water source, in 1984 and again in 1993. Two residences in ALGT use private wells completed in the contaminated surficial aquifer for potable purposes, however, the levels of contamination are not of health concern. These two residences have refused connections to the municipal water source. People may have been exposed to VOCs at levels of health concern through inhalation and ingestion of, or dermal contact with, the contaminated water. A small increase in cancer rates in adults and children might be expected as a result of exposure to TCE-contaminated water. However, because of the small number of people potentially affected and the prevailing incidence of cancer due to other causes, an actual increase in cancer cases may not occur or may not be detectable in the ALGT population.
VOC contamination has also been detected emanating from Fort Lewis which is bounded by ALGT on the south and McCAFB on the southeast; that contamination contributes to the groundwater contamination in the southwest portion of ALGT.
Contaminants of concern have also been detected in the surficial groundwater on McCAFB (VOCs and metals) at levels of health concern. McCAFB frequently monitors base water supply wells to determine if the surficial contamination has contaminated the deeper aquifer that supplies drinking water to the base. Two of the base supply wells and the drinking water tap locations within those two distribution systems are contaminated with TCE, but, currently, the contamination levels are not of health concern.
Based on the available information, ATSDR has concluded that the 65 sites at McCAFB are no apparent public health hazard; however, if in the future contaminants from the soil and groundwater migrate off-site or towards the base supply wells via the groundwater, then a public health hazard could exist. Long-term groundwater monitoring is in place to ensure that migration of contaminants would be detected before any exposures would occur. Also, the site (Site 44, Area G) where the two contaminated base supply wells are is currently undergoing environmental characterization.
There are insufficient or no community-specific health outcome data to indicate that the site has had an adverse impact on human health. A few residents in the ALGT residential area are concerned that exposures to contaminants in groundwater from McCAFB could have caused cancer and other adverse health effects.
ATSDR recommends continued monitoring of base water supply wells and of the contamination of the surficial aquifer in the long-term monitoring program.
The ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel (HARP) has evaluated the data and information in this public health assessment and has determined that no additional community involvement by ATSDR with the residents in ALGT is indicated. The Public Health Action Plan defines the implementation of actions recommended in this public health assessment.


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