A church well near the Dillingham Airport was found to have high levels of chemicals typically found in firefighting foam, a press release from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced Friday.

According to the release, high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl subastances (PFAS) were found in one well at the Holy Rosary Church. The well tested at 186 parts per trillion for the sum of five PFAS compounds, exceeding the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation action level of 70 ppt.

“The safety of Dillingham residents is of utmost importance," DOT&PF Deputy Commissioner John Binder said in the release. "As soon as PFAS were discovered, DOT&PF in collaboration with DEC and Shannon & Wilson, Inc. initiated the process of notifying the impacted residents to provide an alternate source of drinking water."

DEC began its initial sampling of private water wells near the airport in December. Shannon & Wilson, Inc. was contracted by DOT&PF to finish the preliminary investigation. This includes an in-depth well search and sampling.

"PFAS are commonly used in products for fire suppression, resistance to wear, and repelling oil, stains, grease, and water," the release stated. "PFAS can be found in apparel, some consumer products, and firefighting aqueous film forming foams (AFFF). The use of AFFF during firefighting equipment testing at the Dillingham Airport is the presumed source of PFAS contamination in the affected wells. PFAS are considered emerging contaminants and the health effects are not yet well characterized."

Those who use the Holy Rosary Church well as a drinking water source are being advised to visit the Dillingham Senior Center instead. Water will be available on the north side of the building between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. until an alternative permanent water solution is established at the church.

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