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Peterson AFB updates water contamination issue

El Paso County commissioners get update Thursday

Investigation of Local Well Water Contamination Continues

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - The military branch responsible for the presence of unhealthy chemicals in the well water of three local communities updated El Paso County Commissioners on the situation Thursday.

Col. Douglas Schiess said that the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs is doing all it can to remedy the situation that has affected Fountain and Security-Widefield since it became known last summer.

Schiess said the Air Force will spend $4.3 million to supply bottled water to affected residents and place filters in contaminated wells.

Around 30 homes, several churches and businesses and the three water districts will receive the filters.

"If anyone is still concerned about their water, they should contact their district," Schiess said.  "No one should have high levels of the chemical now."

The contamination came from certain chemicals in firefighting foam formerly used in training at Peterson.  The foam has been replaced with a safer version that is now used only in actual emergencies.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency toughened health advisory levels for the chemicals, technically known as perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, decreasing safe exposure from 400 parts per trillion to 70 parts per trillion.

Affected wells are those that don't meet the new standard.

Commissioners said they're generally satisfied with Peterson's response, but worry that the cleanup plan, expected to last five years, may end up costing the county eventually.

"They've assured us that it won't cost us anything, but you never know," said Commissioner Mark Waller.  "We're still waiting for a report this summer containing more details about the extent of contamination and cleanup."

Many residents remain skeptical of the water supply, going so far as to buy their own bottled water and obtaining water from friends and relatives served by Colorado Springs Utilities.

Cheryl Signs, a resident, said she suspected trouble with the water four years ago when a growth developed in her stomach, and stains ruined several of her appliances.

"What else could be causing it but the water?" she said.  "I'm not happy about it.  This isn't right.  I bathe in the water but that's all.  The rest I buy myself, or get from my daughter in Colorado Springs.  Even my pets get bottled water.  I don't trust any of the officials involved in this."

Water district officials in the three affected communities were unavailable for interviews Thursday, but two confirmed that they're supplementing their existing water supply with water from the Pueblo Reservoir.

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