DAYTON — The city of Dayton has notified Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the Department of Defense of an intent to file a lawsuit, alleging the installation is contaminating the city’s water supply.
In a formal letter , the city said it will file the lawsuit in the next 60 days, unless Wright-Patt and the DoD take action to address “per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances” leaching from the installation site.
According to Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein, the lawsuit is a last resort.
“As the leading acquisition and development center in the U.S. Air Force, WPAFB is a beacon in our community. The City absolutely does not want to file this lawsuit,” she said.
The intent of the suit would be to enforce environmental laws and obtain an order compelling WPAFB and the DoD to act to stop the contaminants from entering the city’s wellfield. The suit would also require Wright-Patterson to remediate current contamination, and reimburse the city for damages and costs incurred by contamination.
“We’ve invested more than four years trying get WPAFB and the DoD to agree to take steps to mitigate ongoing contamination coming from the base into the city’s Mad River wellfield and the aquifer that supplies those wells,” Dickstein said in a release. “It’s disappointing that WPAFB and the DoD have also declined an agreement, known as a tolling agreement, that would allow continued cooperative work on the contamination problem while extending the time the City has to file a lawsuit under federal law.”
The city will file the lawsuit under the environmental statutes and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) on May 4, unless the two parties take action or enter into an agreement with the city, officials said.
Dayton city officials allege that this issue has been going on for years without remediation. According to the release, Wright-Patterson has said it needs at least four more years of study before taking any action to remove the chemicals. The resulting inaction has forced the city of Dayton to shut down wells and implement major, expensive pumping systems for the others to ensure their water remains drinkable.
The Ohio EPA has issued several notices of violation to Wright-Patterson, according to city officials. Governor Mike DeWine also wrote letters to the Secretary of Defense late last year.
Several “hot spots” at the base are orders of magnitude above all current health advisory levels, as designated by the federal EPA.
“If these hot spots reach groundwater, we risk losing the entire Mad River wellfield, and the result would be treatment and operational costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars to provide an alternative supply of drinking water,” said Michael Powell, director of the Dayton Department of Water.
“We sincerely hope that WPAFB will act swiftly to remedy the contamination or, at minimum, consider entering into a tolling agreement to extend the statute of limitations so that we can continue to work together to fix this problem,” Powell continued. “Simply, we cannot maintain status quo indefinitely.”