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Senators urge Air Force to address water pollution in El Paso County

EL PASO COUNTY, Co. (KRDO) - Colorado United States Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper are urging Air Force to address water contamination in El Paso County.

The senators are asking the Air Force to expand a pilot program that removes harmful Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from water, to cover contaminated areas in El Paso County.

PFAS has been found in firefighting foam used at Peterson Space Force Base (SFB), contaminating the Widefield aquifer that provides drinking water to thousands and supplies surface water to area ponds, some which are used for recreational fishing. 

In a letter to Air Force, Bennet and Hickenlooper write:

“We understand that multiple pilot projects are ongoing at Peterson Space Force Base to test technologies that can remove PFAS from groundwater and soils. Given the elevated levels of PFAS discovered in the fish and surface water of El Paso County linked to contamination from Air Force operations, we request that a pilot project be conducted at Willow Springs pond to test technologies which may be used to remove PFAS from surface water bodies. To the extent possible, the Air Force should coordinate with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the other state partners who research the effects of PFAS contamination.”

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet & John Hickenlooper

Two weeks ago KRDO reported the federal government found Security-Widefield residents have elevated levels of PFAS in their blood.

In 2020, 346 people who lived in the Security-Widefield area near Peterson Space Force agreed to participate in the Exposure Assessment (EA) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

The agencies tested for 7 ‘forever chemicals.’

The findings show levels of PFHXS and PFOA in the blood of participating residents were up to 6.8 and 1.2 times the national levels.

Hickenlooper and Bennet say since the PFAS levels detected in the Widefield aquifer have been linked to Peterson SFB, they are calling on the Air Force to expand its pilot program to remove PFAS from water to cover contaminated areas in El Paso County.

The senators are also asking the Biden Administration to partner with Colorado and take additional steps to address PFAS contamination stemming from military activities to protect communities. 

“Finally, we ask the administration to commit to partnering with CDPHE and other relevant Colorado agencies, our local communities, and other key stakeholders to address PFAS contamination stemming from military activities. In particular, communication and coordination between all parties studying and working to remedy the PFAS contamination in El Paso County, Colorado is critically important. It is critical that we use the best available science to protect the health and well-being of Coloradans and our communities. We look forward to hearing from you on this issue.”

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet & John Hickenlooper

These requests come after the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced even tiny amounts of PFOS and PFOAs pose health risks, both of which were a part of the firefighting foam used on Peterson.

On June 15 the EPA issued new health advisories for those two forever chemicals, moving their health-risk thresholds from 70 parts per trillion in 2016, to near zero now. That means any amount ingested could be dangerous.

Both PFOA and PFOS were found in the blood of Security-Widefield residents during the recent CDC study.

However, the federal government insists drinking water in that community is now safe after decontamination efforts.

To address the Security-Widefield community’s concerns, a virtual information session will be held at 6 p.m. June 28 for everyone to learn more about the results of the assessment from the CDC and ATSDR.

To register for the event, click here.

ATSDR staff will also host small, in-person and online meetings to answer questions.

ATSDR staff are available for small in-person meetings at the Security Public Library (715 Aspen Drive Security, CO 80911). Dates and times are as follows:

  • June 29
    • 9am-11am
    • 12pm-2pm
    • 4:30pm-6:30pm
  • June 30
    • 9am-11am

Staff are offering an additional virtual meeting on July 1, from 12pm-1pm MDT.

Those interested in participating in the small, in-person and online meetings are encouraged to sign up here:

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Mallory Anderson


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