#ClimateChange: Renewables overtake coal as world’s largest source of power capacity — The Financial Times

From The Financial Times (Pilita Clark):

About 500,000 solar panels were installed every day last year as a record-shattering surge in green electricity saw renewables overtake coal as the world’s largest source of installed power capacity.

Two wind turbines went up every hour in countries such as China, according to International Energy Agency officials who have sharply upgraded their forecasts of how fast renewable energy sources will keep growing.

“We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the global energy advisory agency.

Part of the growth was caused by falls in the cost of solar and onshore wind power that Mr Birol said would have been “unthinkable” only five years ago.

Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed.

The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 per cent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power.

It said an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year, mostly wind and solar projects, which was more than the total power capacity in Canada.

This was also more than the amount of conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power added in 2015, leading renewables to surpass coal’s cumulative share of global power capacity, though not electricity generation.

A power plant’s capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time.

Because a wind or solar farm cannot generate constantly like a coal power plant, it will produce less energy over the course of a year even though it may have the same or higher level of capacity.

Coal power plants supplied close to 39 per cent of the world’s power in 2015, while renewables, including older hydropower dams, accounted for 23 per cent, IEA data show.

But the agency expects renewables’ share of power generation to rise to 28 per cent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the US and EU put together.

It has revised its forecasts to show renewables’ capacity will grow 13 per cent more between 2015 and 2021 than it had thought would be the case just last year, mostly because of stronger policy backing in the US, China, India and Mexico.

Paolo Frankl, head of the IEA’s renewable energy division, said efforts to address climate change were only part of the reason for this policy drive.

Air pollution worries were also spurring growth in countries such as China, a renewable energy juggernaut that alone accounts for close to 40 per cent of capacity growth.

Marys Lake, Lake Estes to be lowered for maintenance — The Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Marys Lake aerial photo via the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, October 2016.
Marys Lake aerial photo via the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, October 2016.

From Reclamation via the Estes Park Trail-Gazette:

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has announced that it will begin shutting down this week the Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope system for winter maintenance and system inspection.

Peter Soeth, a Bureau spokesperson, said in an e-mail that beginning Oct.27 diversions will first be stopped through the Adams Tunnel followed by the draining of Marys Lake and Lake Estes by the morning of October 31.

Flatiron Reservoir will be drained by November 4.

Maintenance activities include annual maintenance for Marys and Pole Hill powerplants, as well as the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal.

The inspection and maintenance is expected to last through the middle of December. Once complete, the system will begin diversions through the Adams Tunnel and preparing for the 2017 water year.

NOAA: U.S. Winter Outlook predicts warmer, drier South and cooler, wetter North

From NOAA (Susan Buchanan):

Drought expected to persist in California and expand in the Southeast

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued the U.S. Winter Outlook today, saying that La Nina is expected to influence winter conditions this year. The Climate Prediction Center issued a La Nina watch this month, predicting the climate phenomenon is likely to develop in late fall or early winter. La Nina favors drier, warmer winters in the southern U.S and wetter, cooler conditions in the northern U.S. If La Nina conditions materialize, forecasters say it should be weak and potentially short-lived.

“This climate outlook provides the most likely outcome for the upcoming winter season, but it also provides the public with a good reminder that winter is just up ahead and it’s a good time to prepare for typical winter hazards, such as extreme cold and snowstorms,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Regardless of the outlook, there is always some chance for extreme winter weather, so prepare now for what might come later this winter.”

Other factors that often play a role in the winter weather include the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of arctic air masses that penetrate into the South and create nor’easters on the East Coast, and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which can affect the number of heavy rain events in the Pacific Northwest.

The 2016 U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February):


  • Wetter than normal conditions are most likely in the northern Rockies, around the Great Lakes, in Hawaii and in western Alaska
  • Drier than normal conditions are most likely across the entire southern U.S. and southern Alaska.
  • winter20162017outlooknoaa


    Warmer than normal conditions are most likely across the southern U.S., extending northward through the central Rockies, in Hawaii, in western and northern Alaska and in northern New England.

  • Cooler conditions are most likely across the northern tier from Montana to western Michigan.
  • The rest of the country falls into the “equal chance” category, meaning that there is not a strong enough climate signal in these areas to shift the odds, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.
  • wintertemperature20162017noaa


  • Drought will likely persist through the winter in many regions currently experiencing drought, including much of California and the Southwest
  • Drought is expected to persist and spread in the southeastern U.S. and develop in the southern Plains.
  • New England will see a mixed bag, with improvement in the western parts and persistence to the east.
  • Drought improvement is anticipated in northern California, the northern Rockies, the northern Plains and parts of the Ohio Valley.
  • This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance. However, La Nina winters tend to favor above average snowfall around the Great Lakes and in the northern Rockies and below average snowfall in the mid-Atlantic.

    NOAA produces seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for what’s likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather’s impacts on lives and livelihoods. Empowering people with actionable forecasts and winter weather tips is key to NOAA’s effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation.

    A video of NOAA’s 2016 winter outlook is available here.

    #AnimasRiver: Motion to dismiss filed in #GoldKingMine spill lawsuit

    General view of the Sunnyside Mine, southwestern Colorado photo via the Denver Public Library
    General view of the Sunnyside Mine, southwestern Colorado photo via the Denver Public Library

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

    A defendant in the Navajo Nation’s Gold King Mine spill lawsuit has filed a motion to dismiss its involvement in the case.

    In the motion filed last week, the Sunnyside Gold Corp. claims the company had no involvement in the Aug. 5, 2015, spill that released more than 3 million gallons of toxic-laden wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

    On Aug. 16, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye announced the tribe had filed a lawsuit against Sunnyside, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Restoration LLC, Harrison Western Corp., Gold King Mines Corp., Kinross Gold Corp., Kinross Gold USA Inc. and John Does 1-10.

    Sunnyside, which is based in Silverton, Colo., owns and operates several mining properties, according to a company overview listed on the Bloomberg website.

    The company states in its motion that claims against it must be dismissed for several reasons, including that the U.S. District Court of New Mexico lacks jurisdiction in the matter. The court lacks jurisdiction because only the alleged injury occurred in New Mexico, and none of the activities related to the mine happened in the state, according to the motion.

    “In this case, there is no suggestion that Sunnyside’s activities were ever directed at New Mexico. All of Sunnyside’s conduct and activities, everything it did or did not do relevant to this case, occurred in Colorado. Nothing Sunnyside did was in or aimed at New Mexico,” the motion states.

    Sunnyside argues the state of Colorado must be a party to the lawsuit because the mine and associated work was done within the state.

    According to the motion, the company claims bulkheads installed at the mine were completed through specific directives issued by the state of Colorado and by a consent decree approved by a Colorado district court judge in May 1996.

    Any fault associated with the installation of bulkheads must include Colorado, the motion states.

    Another reason the motion asks to dismiss Sunnyside is due to a section of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, which established the Superfund program, that deprives the court’s jurisdiction over the tribe’s abatement claims.

    On Sept. 9, the EPA designated the Bonita Peak Mining District, where the Gold King Mine is located, a Superfund site.

    Because the area has received the Superfund designation, any abatement activities would be determined by the EPA, and the tribe is not entitled to punitive damages from Sunnyside, according to the motion.

    On April 7,  2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear. Eric Baker
    On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
    Eric Baker

    PFCs: Air Force studies dating back decades show danger of foam that contaminated local water — The #Colorado Springs Gazette

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

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder and Jakob Rodgers):

    The Air Force ignored decades of warnings from its own researchers in continuing to use a chemical-laden firefighting foam that is a leading cause of contaminated drinking water for at least 6 million Americans, including thousands of people south of Colorado Springs. Multiple studies dating back to the 1970s found health risks from the foam, and even an agreement 16 years ago between the Environmental Protection Agency and the foam’s main manufacturer to stop making the substance did not curtail the Air Force’s usage. Until drinking water tests announced by health officials this year revealed contaminated wells here, the Air Force did almost nothing to publicly acknowledge the danger of the firefighting chemical.

    That contamination sent residents across southern El Paso County scrambling to buy bottled water and to test their blood for the toxic chemical, which, when ingested, can remain in the body for decades.

    The Gazette’s investigation into the military’s research of perfluorinated compounds, the intensely powerful chemical in the foam, found:

    – Studies by the Air Force as far back as 1979 demonstrated the chemical was harmful to laboratory animals, causing liver damage, cellular damage and low birth weight of offspring.

    – The Army Corps of Engineers, considered the military’s leading environmental agency, told Fort Carson to stop using the foam in 1991 and in 1997 told soldiers to treat it as a hazardous material, calling it “harmful to the environment.”

    – The EPA called for a phaseout of the chemical 16 years ago and 10 years ago found the chemical in the foam “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

    Despite the warnings, the Air Force still uses the chemical in Colorado Springs, with at least 600 gallons of the firefighting chemical at Peterson Air Force Base. While that might not sound like much, it is mixed as a 3 percent solution with water. At that ratio, 600 gallons of chemical would combine with about 20,000 gallons of water to make 80 tons of fire suppressant.

    The service plans to phase out the chemical in its firetrucks in coming weeks, but the Air Force still hasn’t determined when it will remove the chemical from firefighting foam systems at Peterson’s hangars.

    The urgency of the issue came clearly into focus last week when Peterson Air Force Base announced the release of an additional 150,000 gallons of water polluted with the chemical into the Colorado Springs sewage system and from there into Fountain Creek.

    After acknowledging the spill, Peterson officials said they weren’t required by law to notify downstream users of the water in the contaminant’s path.

    “At this point, this is a nonregulated substance,” Peterson environmental chief Fred Brooks said…

    Air Force Undersecretary Miranda Ballentine highlighted the Air Force’s $24 million effort to deliver clean water to the Pikes Peak region and elsewhere and defended the toxic foam as the “only fire-fighting product that met military specifications used to protect people and property from aviation fuel-based fires.

    “The Air Force takes ownership of the possible negative impacts of our fire-fighting mission, and where we are responsible we will do the right thing to protect people and the environment,” she wrote in an email to The Gazette.

    But even as the Air Force spends millions of dollars to filter water from the fouled aquifer below Security, Widefield and Fountain, the problem could last for generations…

    EPA-mandated testing found at least 6 million Americans are dealing with water contaminated by the firefighting chemical and similar compounds – with many of them drinking from wells that likely were fouled by the Air Force, other military services or manufacturing sites.

    Studies show that such chemicals can slowly kill. They can cause immune system and liver damage and have been linked to cancers, especially of the kidneys and testicles. Fetal development problems and low birth weight are a concern. And at a minimum, the firefighting foam can cause high cholesterol, a precursor to heart disease.

    Exactly how the foam’s chemical harms people remains unclear, though scientists have strong theories. Researchers generally agree the chemical doesn’t directly damage human genetic material. Rather, it has largely been shown to suppress the immune system – allowing disease and ailments to surface over time.

    Each person’s risk is based on myriad factors, including one’s genetic makeup, lifestyle, gender and the length of exposure to the chemical.

    “It just tells us that it’s not possible under our current testing guidelines to fully capture every potential toxicological effect that could occur from exposure to a synthetic compound,” said Jamie DeWitt, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of East Carolina’s Brody School of Medicine.

    “I think it’s important that the people who are getting exposed understand that these exposure levels are based on probabilities,” DeWitt said. “So exposure does not equal toxicity – it equals probability of toxicity at a sustained exposure.”


    While the Air Force has offered $4.3 million to help filter water in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas, it claims that serious concerns first arose in 2009 – 30 years after its first known studies into the toxic effects of the chemical and 16 years after the EPA and the chemical’s largest manufacturer, 3M, issued a strong warning. By that time, such man-made chemicals had been found on every continent.

    “3M data supplied to EPA indicated that these chemicals are very persistent in the environment, have a strong tendency to accumulate in human and animal tissues and could potentially pose a risk to human health and the environment over the long term,” the EPA said in a 2000 news release.

    The EPA has yet to ban the chemical. The Air Force says it will remain in use through the end of the year. The military and the Department of Veterans Affairs said they have no plans to study the effects of the firefighting chemical on airmen and other troops who may have used it…

    Studies show the first laboratory rats died from exposure to a perfluorinated compound in the 1960s.

    More studies have found rats in the experiments had pups with low birth weights. Some rats suffered liver and kidney damage. Some contracted cancers.

    According to Air Force documents obtained by The Gazette, a study by the service’s research laboratory in 1979 linked the chemical to damaged “thymus, bone marrow, stomach, mesentery, liver, and testes in the male rats.”

    The service ordered a study published in 1981 that found the chemical could cause damage to female rats and their offspring, including low birth weight.

    In the second study, pregnant female lab rats died when exposed to high doses of the chemical. The researchers wrote that the 1979 study confirmed exposure danger for male airmen, “but did not depict the potential hazard in Air Force women,” necessitating the follow-up.

    That study also says the Air Force was a leader in studying the toxicity of firefighting foam, with the only literature on the subject coming from the service’s laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

    More Air Force studies came after that, with several in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Despite alarming findings, the service kept using it, leading it to seep into drinking water in Colorado and around the globe.

    In response to Gazette questions about its studies, an Air Force spokeswoman questioned the validity of the service’s own scientific work in the 1981 study of the foam.

    “We were able to do an initial review of the report you provided and determined that specific chemical was never used in our Aviation Fire Fighting Foam and was only used for the purpose of that study,” spokeswoman Laura M. McAndrews wrote.

    The study, though, says the chemical tested was a perfluorinated acid that Air Force scientists called “structurally related to a surfactant agent used in fire retardant foams by the Air Force.”


    A different view

    The Air Force’s view of the chemical’s history is different.

    The Air Force’s top expert on the toxic chemical said the military didn’t really understand the danger of such chemicals, also known as PFCs, until 2009.

    “So in 2009, taking this through 2009, EPA then issued a provisional health advisory for PFCs. And I think this is a real key point here is that’s when they issued that provisional health advisory,” explained Daniel Medina, a civilian at the Air Force’s Civil Engineer Center in San Antonio.

    While the Air Force studied the firefighting foam’s toxicity, Medina said, the service would not change its chemical policies without direction from the EPA.

    “Right, so again that’s where we’d look at the regulations that EPA and in this case the health advisories put out there to look to defer to that,” he said.

    The toxic chemical in the firefighting foam and its sister chemical, a key ingredient in Teflon, were born out of the chemistry revolution after World War II.

    The firefighting foam is a Vietnam-era military invention patented by the Navy’s Naval Research Laboratory as an alternative for battling aircraft fires aboard carriers.

    The foam is credited with saving thousands of lives from shipboard and fuel fires. It seems almost miraculous for stopping burning fuel, forming a Jello- like barrier between the flames and the fuel that quickly stops the blaze.

    “What it does is it helps you against flammable liquid fires,” explained the Air Force’s fire chief, James E. Podolske Jr…

    Once the foam gets into the environment, though, it’s not going away.

    Like fuel, the chemical’s backbone is a long string of carbon atoms – eight of them. Attached to those carbons is fluoride, forming a remarkably stable concoction using one of the strongest chemical bonds known to science. Perfluorinated compounds in the environment could outlast the sun before breaking down in a time frame normally precise scientists like Colorado School of Mines chemist Christopher Higgins can only describe as “geologic.”

    Concerns about the firefighting foam were serious enough that a 1991 environmental assessment of Fort Carson by the Army Corps of Engineers concluded, “Firefighting operations that use (the foam) must be replaced with nonhazardous substitutes.”

    In June, Gardner sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James asking the Air Force to publicly release all information it possessed on contamination in the Pikes Peak region. The senator, though, hadn’t been made aware of the repeated Air Force studies into the health risks of the foam.

    “We have to have the measures taken to assure public safety,” Gardner told The Gazette. “We need the commitment of the Air Force to do a full reckoning of the documents you have cited.

    “This isn’t something that can be swept under the rug,” Gardner said. “It has to be met with the full faith and credit of the United States.”

    Routine use of foam for years

    Even as the Air Force studied the risks of its firefighting foam, firefighters at Peterson Air Force Base sprayed the foam over and over onto the ground as practice for putting out airplane fires.

    Using two unlined pits, firefighters dumped pools of jet fuel on the ground and lit it – simulating the perils of an airplane crash. The flames were extinguished by coating the pond in foam, said Kjonaas, the former base fire chief.

    The practice at those pits continued until the early 1990s, when the Air Force completed a lined pit for those exercises, sending the remnants into the base’s sewer system. Scientists say a sewer system, though, is unlikely to remove the toxic firefighting chemical from water.

    The foam was used routinely until 1999, when a propane-and-water system was installed.

    The exact number of times the training was conducted at Peterson has not been released. Kjonaas said training was routine at Peterson during his time as chief, which ended in 2007, with foam being used as often as quarterly.

    Until last year, the Air Force also put a small amount of foam on the ground for a daily check to make sure the foam system on fire trucks worked properly, said Podolske, the Air Force’s top firefighter.

    “Spray testing at Fire Station No. 1 is done on the concrete ramp during good weather and at the volleyball court during inclement weather,” a report on contamination at Peterson says.

    That daily testing has stopped.

    “Because of the environmental concerns and the health hazard concerns right now while we were working this, we put out a cease and desist,” Podolske said.

    One of the largest known local uses of the foam in recent years came on Dec. 23, 2010, when a single-engine plane crashed just north of a Peterson runway, killing the pilot and his passenger. A report on contamination at Peterson says “at least 100 gallons” of firefighting foam was sprayed to extinguish the wreckage…

    Asked what he would do to clean up the new release, Peterson’s Brooks said there was little he could do because the chemical had left his base.

    Pattern of contamination found

    Industry has found plenty of uses for the same sturdy chemical in firefighting foam as well as similarly structured compounds. Most commonly, they’ve been used to treat carpets as a stain fighter. They were also used in nonstick cookware and at one time were used in food wrappers.

    Those manufacturers harbored concerns about such chemicals decades ago.

    DuPont issued an internal memo raising health concerns in the early 1960s, according to a Harvard University report. A study in the 1970s on the chemical’s effects on monkeys’ immune systems went unpublished, though other studies in the 1980s and 1990s deepened health concerns, the Harvard report said.

    But the firefighting foam, so commonly sprayed on the ground in large quantities, is “likely the most important way in which we have contaminated water supplies around the globe with fluorochemicals,” said Higgins, the School of Mines chemist.

    A recent study by Higgins and other researchers found that one of the greatest predictors of contaminated water systems in the U.S. is their proximity to a military firefighting training area that used the foam, along with manufacturing sites and wastewater treatment plants.

    The Air Force is studying an estimated 2,800 fire training areas and other places the foam was sprayed at present and past installations around the world. That includes a half-dozen sites at Peterson Air Force Base and the Colorado Springs Airport.

    Results of the Colorado Springs study are not due until March.

    Near Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, Wash., researchers found how the firefighting foam chemical is passed through the ecosystem, with each species accumulating more of the toxin as it moves up the food chain.

    The study, by the Washington State Department of Ecology, focused on ospreys, the predatory birds that rule lakes and rivers around the Spokane base.

    “The osprey come back in the spring, and they just eat a ton of fish,” said Callie Mathieu, a research coordinator for the agency.

    The fish swim in Medical Lake, near the base, where a sewage outflow has pumped the firefighting chemical. Ospreys pick up more of the chemical with each fish they consume.

    “When they lay their eggs a month later, they pass on that contaminate burden to their eggs,” Mathieu said.

    The concept is the same for humans. When the EPA issued its latest advisory in May, Colorado health officials said women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or bottle-feeding infants may want to avoid their water. That’s largely because infants are the most susceptible to the dangers such chemicals pose. The threat includes miscarriage and low birth weight, a key factor in infant mortality.

    That EPA advisory warned that water could be harmful if such chemicals surpassed more than 70 parts per trillion – significantly lower than an advisory issued in 2009. Speaking again to the power of the foam, the 3 percent chemical with 97 percent water solution used to fight fires is 300,000 parts per trillion. A tablespoon of the chemical in 20 Olympic-sized pools would easily exceed the EPA threshold.

    Contamination in wells in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas ranged from just a couple of parts per trillion to 2,000 parts per trillion, nearly 30 times the EPA’s advisory level, tests this year showed. The average reading of 108 groundwater test sites was 164 parts per trillion, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, more than two times the EPA’s health advisory level. The median for those groundwater tests was about 115 parts per trillion.

    Philippe Grandjean, who teaches at Harvard and the University of Southern Denmark, isn’t satisfied with current limits. He wants the EPA to further limit exposure to an infinitesimal level – 1 part per trillion, because such chemicals stay in the body for years.

    “These compounds are much more toxic than we thought,” Grandjean said.

    ‘A lot of unanswered questions’

    The military has yet to face any lawsuits stemming from its use of the chemical in Colorado. For the most part, federal agencies are immune from liability.

    Some local politicians have praised the military for its actions to clean Pikes Peak region drinking water while refusing to comment on how the water got contaminated.

    “The Air Force is going above and beyond in their willingness to be a good community partner and neighbor with their multi-million dollar response commitment to this particular issue,” Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “The money and time they are investing will go a long way toward addressing the needs of the citizens of our region.”

    Several firefighting foam manufacturers and other companies making perfluorinated compounds have been sued.

    Manufacturers of certain perfluorinated compounds have faced lawsuits since at least the late 1990s, and a landmark settlement in one case led to Dr. Brooks’ research project that collected blood samples from 69,000 people in the mid-Ohio Valley, a region east of Cincinnati centered on Parkersburg, W.Va.

    Brooks said the study revealed many health problems, especially high cholesterol stemming from such chemicals. Worse, he said, the health impacts can last a lifetime because the human body can’t get rid of them.

    Two federal lawsuits seeking class-action status for Security, Widefield and Fountain residents have been filed against 3M and several other companies that made the foam and supplied it to Peterson Air Force Base. They seek money for local medical studies and damages.

    A spokesman for the law firm representing 3M, which phased out production of the chemical in 2002, said last month that the company will “vigorously” defend itself against the lawsuits, just as it has in the past.

    The chemical that 3M included in its foam is similar – though slightly different – from what DuPont made. The EPA, however, lumped them together in its May advisory, citing similarities and health concerns about each.

    A resolution to the lawsuits might take years.

    For now, the people receiving contaminated water in their kitchen taps have been left with the tab…

    Combined, Security, Widefield and Fountain water officials have spent millions of dollars purchasing additional, cleaner water from other agencies or to widen their existing pipes and install new ones that bring in contaminant-free water from the Pueblo Reservoir or both.

    Permanently disconnecting from the Widefield aquifer is infeasible, water district leaders say, because too little water exists elsewhere to meet demand without skyrocketing costs. As a result, the water district might build new treatment plants to filter the chemicals from their well water.

    Those projects, however, typically cost millions of dollars and take years to complete…

    But long after the Air Force follows through with its plan to destroy its remaining stocks of firefighting foam, a toxic legacy will remain for those who drank water from contaminated wells, Dr. Brooks said.

    “If you are 60 years old, you can’t live long enough to get down to a level that it is not going to bother you.”

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    Timeline: History of contamination

    1947: Perfluorinated compounds are produced at a 3M plant in Cottage Grove, Minn.

    1962: DuPont issues an internal memo raising health concerns.

    1967: The Naval Research Laboratory patents Aqueous Film-Forming Foam to fight shipboard fires. “This firefighting foam is now used on all U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and by major airports, refineries, and other areas where potentially catastrophic fuel fires can occur,” the lab says on its website.

    About 1970: The Navy’s foam is adopted by the Air Force for airfield use, replacing earlier foams that were less effective but nontoxic.

    1979: An Air Force study using perfluorinated chemicals similar to those in firefighting foam finds it damaged “thymus, bone marrow, stomach, mesentery, liver, and testes in the male rats.”

    1980: A study finds high concentrations of fluorochemicals in the blood of plant workers at a manufacturing plant, though researchers found no attributable health effects.

    1981: Another Air Force study finds the chemical in the firefighting foam is harmful to female rats. The Air Force says the study was needed to show “the potential hazard in Air Force women.”

    1983: An Air Force study on the effects of firefighting foam chemicals on mouse tissue found they “caused impairment of clone-forming (cell replication) ability after treatment with concentrations that were non-toxic in suspension.”

    1985: An Air Force study finds that perfluorinated compounds could be harmful to cellular growth. “This would imply that these perfluorinated acids are producing toxicity through a membrane interaction.”

    1991: The Army Corps of Engineers tells Fort Carson to quit using the firefighting foam at the post, saying it “must be replaced with nonhazardous substitutes.”

    1993: An Air Force study finds that rats exposed to firefighting foam chemicals suffer liver effects.

    1997: An Army study tells soldiers to treat the firefighting foam as hazardous waste. “In large volumes, AFFF foam can be harmful to the environment. AFFF solution should not be allowed to flow untreated into the ecosystem, or into the sewage systems in large quantities.”

    1997: A Navy study attempts to break down the toxic chemicals of firefighting foam using bacteria. The experiment fails.

    2000: The EPA and manufacturer 3M issue joint statement warning of the chemicals’ dangers.

    2002: 3M finishes phasing out its production of perfluorinated compounds.

    2005: A landmark settlement is reached between DuPont and residents in the mid-Ohio Valley over water contamination near a manufacturing plant. It established the C8 Project that tested the blood of 69,000 people and led researchers to say the chemicals are associated with six health conditions: kidney and testicular cancers, diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

    2005-06: An EPA draft assessment finds a “suggestive” link to cancer, and a follow-up review finds one such chemical is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

    2006: A study finds levels of one type of perfluorinated compound “greatly exceeded general population medians,” largely due to drinking water contamination from a nearby chemical manufacturing plant.

    2006: The eight leading manufacturers of perfluorinated compounds commit to ending production of the chemicals by 2015 as part of an EPA stewardship program.

    2007: The Air Force says in 2007 it first learned from the EPA that firefighting foam might be dangerous. The service doesn’t take action until a stronger warning in 2009.

    2009: The EPA issues its first provisional health advisories about perfluorinated compounds that say “epidemiological studies of exposure to (the chemicals) and adverse health outcomes in humans are inconclusive at present.”

    2011: An Army study finds the chemical in firefighting foam causes immune system damage. “However, autism risk cannot be determined from these data alone.”

    2012: A study shows perfluorinated compounds are associated with reduced vaccine effectiveness among children ages 5 and 7.

    2013: Water districts – largely those serving 10,000 customers or more – begin an EPA-led effort to test their water for perfluorinated compounds through 2015.

    2014: Reduced vaccine effectiveness is found in the mid-Ohio Valley population.

    2015: A statement authored by 14 leading scientists on perfluorinated compounds, called The Madrid Statement, warns of the dangers these chemicals pose.

    May 2016: The EPA tightens its guidance regarding PFCs, issuing a health advisory for water containing 70 parts per trillion or more of perfluorinated compounds.

    August: A study is published that finds firefighting sites that used the chemical-laden foam were one of the greatest predictors of nearby water contamination.

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