News Feature | February 14, 2017

Air Force Has Five-Year Plan To Address PFC Contamination

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

airforceregular

The Air Force has acknowledged plans for addressing the higher-than-normal concentrations of perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, that a base near Colorado Springs sent into the city’s sewer system as frequently as three times a year.

CBS Denver announced that the Air Force has a five-year plan to clean up water contamination in two local communities.

In an email that was sent to The Gazette last year, officials wrote that Peterson Air Force Base stopped sending firefighting foam wastewater into sewers in 2015. The foam is believed to have contaminated the Widefield Aquifer, making well water for customers in neighboring Security, Widefield, and Fountain unsafe to drink.

The Air Force “contends the release of contaminated wastewater was in accordance with the city’s utilities guidelines,” which Colorado Springs Utilities disputes.

In October, the air force announced that it spilled 150,000 gallons of water laced with PFCs into the sewage system in Colorado and that it failed to warn a local wastewater utility in time to prepare for the onslaught of chemicals.

Since January of last year, officials in Security, Widefield, and Fountain, have worked tirelessly to remove higher than normal concentrations of PFCs from the water supply.

According to The Gazette, an Air Force official revealed to the county commissioners earlier this month “that the service has a five-year plan to mitigate water contamination that recently had southern El Paso County residents searching for clean water sources after wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain were tainted by perfluorinated compounds from toxic fire fighting foam.”

While Colonial Doug Schiess, commander of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, would not go into further details, he did say that “information about an internal Air Force report would be released in late June or early July.”

During an October investigation, The Gazette revealed that foam was kept in place “despite Defense Department studies over the years that showed it was harmful to laboratory animals.”

Both Commissioners Longinos Gonzalez and Mark Waller had urged Schiess “to reveal how much the mitigation work would cost and who would pay the bill if more contamination was found after the five-year time frame.”

"That will be done at a much higher level in the Air Force," Schiess told The Gazette. "They know that that is a big bill and they have put some money aside. That is being budgeted, but I don't have details."

Gonzalez worries about future contaminations since the temporary solutions that have been implemented involve placing filters in homes, at water district pumping stations, and at local businesses.

"They're going to clean water as it comes out of the well," Gonzalez said. "They don't clean the aquifers."

To read more about PFCs visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "NL Air Force Days., June 2013" Archangel12 © 2013 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/