The sewer system of Colorado Springs could now be potentially contaminated with deadly, cancer-causing chemicals. Early last week, Peterson Air Force Base somehow accidentally dumped over 150,000 gallons of toxic wastewater contaminated with PFCs into the Colorado Springs sewer.
PFCs, or perfluorinated compounds, are used to make products resistant to stains, grease, and water damage. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, PFCs are byproducts of commercial products that are primarily consumed by drinking contaminated water.
PFCs have a half-life of several years, and take countless time to fully exit the body. Among other health issues, consumption of PFCs is known to cause decreased fertility, cognitive impairment, kidney failure, and the development of cancer.
The Air Force released a statement claiming that the leaked water had not reached or contaminated local drinking water supplies, but had instead moved to Fountain Creek, a waterway used by farmers in the region that ultimately flows into the Arkansas River.
The fire training area retention tank located on base is the reported source of the discharge. Peter Brooks, the environmental chief at Peterson Air Force Base, communicated to the Colorado Gazette that the design of the holding tank makes accidental discharge very unlikely, causing him to believe the leak might have been intentional.
Lt. Col. Chad Gemeinhardt, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander on the base, stated that the Air Force is “committed to upholding environmental stewardship policies and procedures.” He expressed that the Air Force would quickly work to determine the cause of the leak.
Paul Fanning, spokesman for the nearby Pueblo Board of Water Works, admitted to the Denver Post that his office was not made aware of the hazardous leak of chemicals into local waterways until reporters contacted them requesting quotes. However, he emphasized the importance of keeping all waterways in the area free of contamination.
“We don’t use any groundwater or surface water from Fountain Creek. We use water from the Arkansas River taken upstream from where Fountain Creek flows in,” Fanning stated in his interview. “But it is not a good thing to have those contaminants anywhere in our water. There are some reported health effects. It is in our interest to protect our public.”
Due to the lapse of time before officials were notified of the leak, the contaminated water passed through a wastewater treatment plant before officials could attempt to block it or treat it. Steve Berry, a local utilities spokesman, stated that such an attempt would not have made a difference.
“Even if we would have been able to head it off at the plant, we’re not equipped. I don’t know of any wastewater plants in the country equipped to remove PFCs,” Berry noted to the Denver Post. “We would not have been able to remove that chemical before it was discharged back into the environment from our effluent.”
Hazardous leaks like this are especially concerning, as it highlights the likelihood that chemicals can breach our water supply without families and residents knowing about the harmful contaminants possibly lurking in their own water.
If you live in the Colorado area you should take every step available to you to protect your family’s health. Installing a whole house carbon filter or NSF-certified reverse osmosis filter can safeguard your water from harmful and dangerous chemicals like PFCs, fluoride, arsenic, and other compounds. You never know what’s lurking in your water – take action now before it’s too late.