Peterson AFB likely source of Widefield aquifer PFC pollution

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

The state Department of Public Health and Environment said Wednesday it hasn’t ruled out additional sources, but officials believe at least some of the chemicals came from Peterson Air Force Base, where firefighters used the foam in training exercises.

The foam contained perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, which have been linked to prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, along with other illnesses.

The comments by state officials were the most definitive statement to date linking the contamination to Peterson. It came hours after the military released a report identifying six sites at the base where the foam may have escaped into the environment after firefighting drills or fire equipment tests…

Colorado and Air Force officials will meet next week to discuss their next steps, said Roland Clubb of the state health department. The next phase will include drilling monitoring wells and taking soil samples, which the Air Force announced last month.

Clubb said state officials also want assurances from the Air Force about seven other sites at Peterson where the foam was used, but where the military said no follow-up investigation is needed. The Air Force said any foam released at those sites went through a treatment system…

The Security Water District has shifted almost entirely to surface water — from rivers and lakes — since the PFCs were found, Manager Roy Heald said Wednesday. Previously, about half the district’s water came from wells and half from surface water.

Heald expects the district to soon use surface water entirely, after modifications to the system.

The Fountain Water Department has not used wells since October and got through this summer’s peak demand period entirely on surface water, Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell said.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

Six sites at Peterson Air Force Base were singled out for follow-up tests, the report submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers found.

The firefighting foam was used most heavily from about 1970 through the early 1990s at two fire training areas, which have since been decommissioned, the report said. A former assistant fire chief, however, told investigators that he remembered it twice being used in a lined basin during the last decade.

Also at risk of exposure is the installation’s golf course, which sits on a former leach field and is watered from an untreated pond that collects all runoff from the central and western areas of the base, the report said. Investigators were not certain how much firefighting foam made its way into the pond since it was built in 1979.

The chemicals also have been used during equipment tests in two areas, including a dirt-and-grass volleyball court near one fire station and along a concrete road near another, the report said…

The EPA says the chemicals are “toxic to laboratory animals and wildlife, producing reproductive, developmental, and systemic effects in laboratory tests.”

In the new report, investigators say none of the sites on Peterson contaminated with the firefighting chemicals “identified as presenting an imminent risk to public health or the environment.”

The base has at least 600 gallons of the chemicals in storage. The military has said it’s working to find a replacement for the firefighting chemicals.

Studies of the contamination, including the drilling of test wells, are expected to continue through the fall. Another report is due in March.

This year, the military said 664 sites in the U.S. and elsewhere may have used the toxic firefighting chemicals. They were mixed with water to create a foam used to extinguish fuel fires.

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

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