PFAS Phase 3 map

Some homeowners in the area delineated in this map are awaiting results from water tests for polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS. The Jackson Hole Airport board recently signed off on a policy that established guidelines for residents to be eligible to have a water filter reimbursed. 

Homeowners southwest of Jackson Hole Airport who may have polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their drinking water have been given specifications they must meet in order to be eligible for a reimbursed water filter.

Currently, only some residents are eligible for free water filtration systems through the airport, including those who live most immediately adjacent and anyone whose well water shows evidence of PFAS above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

Meeting last Friday, the airport’s board of directors established a reimbursement policy for more distant airport neighbors who are proactively installing water filters ahead of receiving test results.

Specifically, the airport board instructed its neighbors to go with “point of entry treatment”-style water filtration systems that are certified to remove the manmade chemicals, which are found in household goods and, in this case, leached into the groundwater after being introduced by a type of aviation firefighting foam used during training exercises.

Reimbursement would be capped at what the airport is paying to install complimentary systems at properties nearest the airport and at households whose water tests above the EPA’s advisory level.

To qualify for repayment, residents also need to keep all receipts and invoices and allow airport staff access to the system. They must also install the same make and model of water filter the airport is purchasing in order to receive maintenance on the airport’s dime.

The reimbursement policy applies to homeowners whose property falls within the “phase 2” and “phase 3” testing areas the airport has designated, located northeast of the Snake River and Gros Ventre River confluence.

The extent of the PFAS plume in the groundwater west of the airport is currently unknown.

Initially, the airport offered free testing for the nearest 45 homes, finding detectable PFAS in the vast majority of them, and conducted some additional testing on an as-requested basis. Only one of those residences in this “phase one” area had tap water with PFAS levels above the EPA’s recommended limit.

In November, the airport board agreed to fund 144 additional tests to better define the scope of the pollutants, sometimes called “forever chemicals,” that are migrating underground.

The federal government does not yet regulate PFAS, though the EPA is developing an action plan for the substances, which are found in such everyday items as Teflon and are considered an emerging health hazard.

Seven states have developed more stringent standards than the EPA. The airport’s board and staff are further analyzing the science and awaiting more water test results before making the call of whether to pay for water filters at residences where tap water has less PFAS than the federal standard.

“The decision as to whether such systems will be installed at Airport expense on wells which test at some level below 70 [parts per trillion] for PFAS will be made by the Airport Board in consultation with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the Teton County Health Department,” the airport’s policy states.

Direct any questions about the airport’s policy to Meg Jenkins at 699-4387 or megan.jenkins@jhairport.org.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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