Reported and written by Adam Hochron and Sergio Bichao

JACKSON — Residents in five communities in Burlington and Ocean counties are being asked to test their well waters after high levels of potentially dangerous chemicals were found last year at neighboring Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and in at least two residential wells in Ocean County.

The Air Force is testing for perfluoroctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), two of the most common chemicals, which have been used to make Teflon, Scotchgard, food wrappers and textiles.

The chemicals also are used to make a firefighting foam used to extinguish petroleum fires. The foam is the source of the contamination at the base, which like other bases across the country over several decades, has dumped thousands upon thousands of gallons of the toxins into the ground.

The chemicals, however, are not regulated and there is uncertainty on their impact on human health, although studies have linked the chemicals to thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, obesity and immune suppression.

The chemicals are long-lasting and pervasive: almost every American has some amount of them in their bloodstream. A Harvard study found that New Jersey was second only to California among states with drinking water that tested positive for high levels of these chemicals.

The EPA last May issued a lifetime drinking water Health Advisory limit for the chemicals at  70 parts per trillion.

But because the chemical is not regulated, the advisory is not enforceable.

The Air Force has been moving away from using the chemicals and testing for contamination at its 39 closed installations and 83 active installations across the country.

Last year, 21 sites on the New Jersey base were tested using 160 groundwater samples and 30 surface water samples. Some of the water on the base has found to exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency deems as safe.

In January, the base revealed that two private wells in Manchester showed higher levels than the EPA advisory.

Last week, the base began hand-delivering informational packets to about 50 properties in Jackson.

The Air Force is also testing private wells at no cost to homeowners in Lakehurst, Manchester, Pemberton and New Hanover.

"In the event the sampling results indicate exceedances of EPA's health advisory levels for these compounds, the Air Force will take immediate action to ensure you are provided clean water to drink, at no cost to you," an Air Force statement to residents last week said.

Sampling is being done through a joint effort by the EPA, and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com