Air Force to spend $30 million this year on Pease base cleanup

air force one pease air base

Air Force One on the parking ramp of Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H. Nov. 7, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Ashlyn J. Correia)

CONCORD, N.H. — The Air Force plans to spend an additional $30 million this year to clean up contaminated groundwater at a former base in New Hampshire, officials said this week.

The groundwater at the former Pease Air Force Base was found to be contaminated with perfluorinated compounds from the use of firefighting foam. Exposure to the chemicals, found in everyday products like nonstick cookware and stain-resistant carpet and probably occurring at low levels in most people, have been linked in animal studies to low birth weight, accelerated puberty, cancer and thyroid problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Air Force announced it has already spent $25 million addressing the contamination and plans on spending $30 million more in 2017, including $13 million to build a system to treat the groundwater from one of the contaminated wells.

“Protecting the Portsmouth community is our priority,” Peter Forbes, Air Force environmental project manager at Pease, said in a statement.

Since 2015, New Hampshire health officials have tested the blood of nearly 1,800 people — including 366 children — who worked on or lived near Pease or attended day care there. Those tested had significantly higher levels of three perflourinated compounds than people who took part in a 2012 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rep. Mindi Messmer, a Democrat from Rye who has been a leading voice on combating groundwater contamination in the state, welcomed the additional funding but called on the Air Force to do more.

Messmer said community members want assurances that the Air Force cleanup system will remove all chemical compounds detected in the groundwater.

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