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Military: Peterson Air Force Base may have released toxic chemical

The military says firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals may have been released from an Air Force base near two Colorado communities where the chemicals were detected in drinking water systems.

Officials said Wednesday they identified six sites at Peterson Air Force Base where the foam may have escaped. They recommended a follow-up investigation.

The foam contained perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs. Researchers say overall, they do not know a lot about the health effects of PFCs. Other studies show a possible link, but not a cause-and-effect relationship between PFCs and low birth weight, thyroid disease, immune system effects and kidney and testicular cancer.

PFCs were found in water systems serving about 69,000 people in the city of Fountain and an unincorporated community called Security-Widefield.

Peterson Air Force Base is looking into whether its firefighting foam is responsible for contaminating the drinking water. The base used it for training from 1970 to 1990. After that, it only used it in case of emergency. Peterson Air Force base is now substituting its stock of firefighting foam for a synthetic foam approved by the EPA.

The base announced last month it awarded a $4.3 million rapid response contract as an interim measure to evaluate and treat PFC-contaminated water in Security, Widefield and Fountain. The money will be used to evaluate affected potable water systems and develop short-term treatment solutions.

Drill rigs will be set up in mid-October.

More samples will be sent to a lab by the end of the month. Those results are expected to return in March 2017. A report will be made public in June 2017.

“If we have a reasonable expectation that the Air Force is the probable contributor to PFC contamination in water supplies above the EPA’s health advisory level, the Air Force will fund actions to manage the issue. In the meantime, we are still working with the affected communities and regulators for long-term solutions,” said Stephen Brady with 21st Space Wing Public Affairs.

The military is checking bases nationwide for possible releases of the foam.