Unseen worry: Firefighting ‘forever chemicals’ linger near Paine Field

Unseen worry: Firefighting ‘forever chemicals’ linger near Paine Field | HeraldNet.com

EVERETT — Late on the afternoon of May 20, 2014, construction workers at Boeing’s massive Everett Modification Center at Paine Field accidentally cut a wire.

The mistake activated the building’s long-unused fire suppression system, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and firefighting foam into the building, overwhelming its sewer system and eventually flowing into wetlands to the southwest.

The foam, containing dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or so-called forever chemicals, spread into the soil at levels an analysis last year found was dozens of times above state recommendations.

As a result, the state Department of Ecology last month added the area to its small but growing list of PFAS-contaminated cleanup sites around the state.

“Unfortunately, once they’re there, wherever they’ve decided to sorb to, soil, groundwater, other things down there, they’re kinda stuck there without some intervention,” said Kim Wooten, of Ecology’s toxics cleanup program.

Airport officials last month said there is “absolutely no risk to drinking water.”

Some health concerns remain, however, when such chemicals get into soil and groundwater, according to researchers.