Fountain shows off new treatment facility Friday to remove toxic chemicals from drinking water
FOUNTAIN, Colo. (KRDO) -- The city allowed the media and other local officials to tour a new facility Friday built specifically to remove chemicals from contaminated groundwater that provides drinking water.
Local leaders shared a group toast by drinking glasses of the newly-treated water.
"Without a doubt, our water is clean and safe to drink, to bathe in, to let your dogs drink in," said Mayor Sharon Thompson. "Our water is safe and clean."
The contamination has been an issue since 2015, when officials first discovered that traces of the PFAS chemicals -- coming from foam formerly used for firefighter training at Peterson Space Force Base -- were in the water supply.
Officials immediately shut down four wells providing 70% of the water supply and used water from the Pueblo Reservoir while a plan to filter out the chemicals was formulated; during that time, many residents filtered their own water or switched to bottled water.
Fountain then built two temporary filtering systems -- one near the new water treatment plant in Aga Park, the other near the Fountain Library -- and recently decommissioned them in favor of the new facility that can purify a larger volume of water from a contaminated underground aquifer.
"As long as there's PFAS in our groundwater, there will always be a need for this kind of system," said utilities director Dan Blankenship. "But there's always other naturally-occurring, what the EPA considers contaminants, in water, that will need to be removed. So we will always use this plant."
Although officials have considered the groundwater safe to drink ever since the temporary filters were built in 2018, some residents remain skeptical and are worried about cancer and other long-term health risks.
"I don't know for sure if it affected people's health," said Councilwoman Detra Duncan. "All I know is that haven't, since we've cleaned the water, I don't have any problems with my hair, I don't have any problems with my skin."
Athelia Roland said that she and her family will continue using bottled water for drinking and cooking.
"I just found out about it being filtered better now, so maybe in a couple of weeks, I'll try it and see," she said. But until then, I've still got to just come get water. My tap water still tastes weird and smells weird. I don't think the new treatment plant is helping that."
Meanwhile, Rachael Hulls said that she drinks the tap water -- while being uncertain about how safe it is.
"I just feel like they might not be able to tell us if it wasn't safe, because what's our alternative, you know?" she said.
The federal government paid an undisclosed amount to build water treatment systems in Fountain and neighboring Security-Widefield.