Report back from US Air Force organized Public Relations event at Medical Lake High School on 5/24/17:
Fairchild Air Force Base now faces intense scrutiny of the recently-disclosed, decades-long contamination problem there, which now affecting drinking water wells and soils around the base, as well food production for prisoners at Airway Heights and senior meals services in the area. This is added to the dozens of chemicals of concern in and around Fairchild’s four EPA super fund sites and other yet undisclosed and/or little known environmental concerns there.
Last night (Tuesday, 5/24/17) the US Air Force, in the person of the Commander of Fairchild Air Force Base, began its public relations campaign in front of a large crowd at Medical Lake High School. The public relations show was run and coordinated by the US Air Force, with a large team of Public Affairs officer, JAG Corp attorneys, environmental engineers, and other staff, including undercover military security personnel. Brought in were some additional twenty person from a variety of local, state and federal agencies to begin the process of forming a unified message to tamp down public concern and anger over this issue. Present under coordination of the US Air Force were the US EPA (including personnel based in Washington, D.C.), the Washington State Department of Health, the Spokane Regional Health District, and the City of Airway Heights (along with additional police presence by the City of Airway Heights and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office). Among the “experts” who spoke and those staffing the several tables, there were no medical doctors.
This 35 minute 46 second complete video of the public presentation shows the totally inadequate and controlled presentation, a presentation was dominated by the Fairchild Base Commander who opened and closed the presentation and a US Air Force environmental engineering staff member.
The Fairchild Base commander – who personally told me after the presentations, to my stated disbelief, that he arrived at Fairchild in July 2016 but did not learn of the long-standing issue nor the EPA’s May 2016 announcement of life-time exposure issues for the two chemicals (PFOS and PFOA) in question until November 2016 – inappropriately cloaked his opening statements in extensive references to his personal integrity and in repeated calls for the public to maintain patriotic appreciation and respect for the mission of Fairchild and its military personnel of Fairchild.
The 35 minute snow job was finished off by an very questionable and in the end irresponsible presentation by Lauren Jenks, the Director of the Washington State Department of Health Office of Environmental Public Health Sciences. At about 25 minutes and 30 seconds of the presentation (nearly inaudible in the video) a woman in the public speaks up and specifically expresses concerns for pregnant women and unborn children. The Air Force engineer responds to her that people with wells will get filters and quickly stops any further public questions from the audience.
Jenks then began and continued with one of the principle messages of the coordinated presentation, that, as was said several times earlier in the night and by many of the assembled “experts” before and after the event at their tables, these are “emerging contaminates” being looked at with “new science”. Jenks proceeds to mention at 29 minutes of the video that these two poisons (again only two of an array of known contaminants including TCE and xylene found at and around Fairchild) are known to cause higher cholesterol and higher incidents of some kinds of cancer including kidney and testicular cancers.
Jenks then states, “When people, when fetuses, when babies are exposed in the mother’s womb, some of the kids were born smaller than others, not very small, and as they grew they caught up with everyone else. Some kids responded to vaccines differently. They had strong response to vaccines. So it looks like they may have some immune issues”. Perhaps she should have stopped there but she went on.
At 32 minutes and 30 seconds of the video, Jenks states, “In gardening…if the chemicals are in the water, they are likely in the dirt. And if they are in the dirt, there is likely to be a little bit of them in vegetables. That being said, there are so many great benefits to the physical activity of having a garden, to eating your vegetables, that in my public health opinion they far out weigh the additional small amount of PFOA and PFOS that you can find in those vegetables. So my advise would be to continue to garden and to continue to eat those vegetables.”
This – and promises from (cough cough) the US Air Force – were the extent of the science and the extent of the response.