Widefield aquifer: ColoradoSPH and @coschoolofmines score grant to study health effects of aqueous film-forming foams

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

Here’s the release from the Colorado School of Public Health:

​Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado School of Mines received a two-year grant to investigate contamination of the drinking water in the towns of Fountain, Security, and Widefield, Colorado. Residents of these towns were exposed to drinking water contaminated with pollutants originating from aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) used in firefighting and training activities.

By measuring biological markers of exposure and health indicators in a sample of approximately 200 people who consumed contaminated water, this study will provide communities and scientists with an improved understanding of the biopersistence and potential health impacts of AFFF-derived poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). PFASs are a class of chemicals widely used in industrial and commercial applications since the 1950s.

In July, a nine-month U.S. Air Force study verified that firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force Base contaminated ground water and soil with PFASs at levels more than 1,000 times an Environmental Protection Agency health advisory limit for similar chemicals.

The grant is from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a program of the National Institutes of Health. This study is being funded because of the recent discovery of the source of contamination, which has impacted the water supplies of these communities for several years.

“This research will contribute to our understanding of the factors driving this unique exposure and how it may affect long-term health,” said Dr. John Adgate, chair of ColoradoSPH’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and principal investigator of the study. “We will collect the first systematic data on blood levels of these persistent compounds in this PFAS-impacted community. While exposure to PFASs has been significantly reduced due to work by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the local water utilities, our hope is that by gathering data on blood levels shortly after people’s peak exposure we can provide better answers on related health effects and potential next steps.”

Currently, little is known about the health effects of human exposure to PFASs in areas with drinking water contaminated by AFFF, and no systematic biomonitoring has been done in these communities.

“Because we suspect that any health effects are likely related to peak blood levels, it is important to collect the blood data and health effect information as soon as we can,” Dr. Adgate said.

Dr. Christopher Higgins, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Mines and a co-investigator for the study, will be applying advanced analytical techniques to examine the potential that a much broader suite of PFASs is present in the impacted water supplies and possibly in people’s blood.

“By using high resolution mass spectrometry to look at both water samples and a subset of human serum samples, we hope to improve our understanding of exactly which compounds bioaccumulate in humans and how long they stick around in the human body,” Higgins said. “We will also explore the links between drinking water exposure, PFAS blood levels, and the potentially related health effects.”

Interventions to the water system like carbon filtration and alternative water supplies recommended by state and county health departments began in early 2016 soon after discovery of the contamination. As a result, exposures to these chemicals have been significantly curtailed. One of the research team’s challenges will be to work with the water utilities and health agencies to attempt to sample water from wells representative of what people were drinking before these interventions started. The study team hopes the additional water data will be useful to CDPHE and the water utilities that have been impacted by this contamination.

The study will also include Anne Starling, PhD​​, assistant professor of epidemiology at ColoradoSPH and Katerina Kechris, PhD​, associate professor of biostatistics and informatics​ at ColoradoSPH.

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliot) via The Denver Post:

The University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines said the two-year study aims to determine how much of the chemicals residents absorbed, how quickly their bodies are shedding the contaminants and what the current levels are in the water.

The chemicals are called perfluorinated compounds or PFCs. They have been linked to prostate, kidney and testicular cancer, along with other illnesses.

Firefighting foam containing PFCs has been used at military installations nationwide. PFCs have also been used in non-stick cookware coatings and other applications.

The Air Force announced in 2016 it would switch to some another type of foam believed to be safer.

PFCs were found in well water in three utility systems serving about 69,000 people in the city of Fountain and an unincorporated community called Security-Widefield south of Colorado Springs. Levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limits.

The utilities have switched to other water sources.

The Air Force determined the chemicals came from firefighting foam used at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.

The new study is designed to look at large-scale impacts of the chemicals, but individual subjects will at least learn what their contamination levels are and can talk to their health care providers about it, said John Adgate, the principal investigator…

Although the study is planned for just two years, with sufficient funding it could be turned into longer-term project, he said.

“There are no strong studies on the long-term health effects of these compounds,” Adgate said.

The Colorado study is funded by an initial grant of about $247,000 from the National Institutes of Health.

Petersen Air Force Basin Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo credit: MilitaryBases.com.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

Approval for the study of residents in Fountain, Security and Widefield was announced Thursday by the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Colorado School of Mines. It will examine how perfluorinated compounds, a class of chemicals contained in the foam, have impacted the health of a small group of residents…

Water providers have added filters and have switched to untainted sources since the contamination was revealed, but perfluorinated compounds are known to stay in the human body for decades after they’re consumed…

The $275,000 local study comes after Congress approved a wider national effort as part of a military policy bill this month. The national study will help federal officials understand contamination reported near military bases around the nation that used the firefighting foam. Used to fight fuel fires, the chemical-laden foam was finally removed from Peterson Air Force base last year.

The Air Force had been studying its toxic qualities since the Carter administration.

Studies by the Air Force as far back as 1979 demonstrated the chemicals were harmful to laboratory animals, causing liver damage, cellular damage and low birth weight of offspring.

The Army Corps of Engineers, considered the military’s leading environmental agency, told Fort Carson to stop using the foam in 1991 and in 1997 told soldiers to treat it as a hazardous material, calling it “harmful to the environment.”

In 2000, the EPA called for a phaseout of the chemicals and later declared they were “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

The Air Force plans more groundwater studies at Peterson Air Force Base next year as the Colorado Department of Health and Environment considers setting a groundwater limit for the chemical in the Widefield aquifer. The limit would be 70 parts per trillion – that’s a shot glass of the chemical in 107 million gallons of water.

From KOAA.com:

“What’s unknown here is what are the long term health consequences of exposure to these compounds and this study will begin to look at that,” Dr. John Adgate, principal investigator of the study at the Colorado School of Public Health said.

After drinking water was tainted in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas a year and a half ago which reports link to Peterson Air Force Base firefighting foam, many wondered if this could make them sick.

“The things that we’re going to look at are some live enzyme tests and also some markers of immune function,” Dr. Adgate said…

On Thursday, his research team announced they got the green light on funding for the two-year study.

“I’m happy, I’m excited that we get to do the work, I know people are concerned,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to do something that’s important for public health in the state of Colorado and these folks in particular in Fountain, Security and Widefield.”

He’s hoping to find out how persistent these compounds are in a group of 200 volunteers, all people from across the three affected areas.

“Measure both their blood levels and collect some household water and look at the relationship between that and where they live, how long they’ve lived there and some markers of health effects,” he said.

And regardless of the outcome of the study, he says the first order of business is making sure people are no longer being exposed.

“Trying to offer them what we can in terms of interventions that assure that and answer other questions for example, can we grow vegetables with this?” he said.

Researchers will start looking for that pool of 200 volunteers in the first half of 2018, focusing on long-term residents.

They’re expecting to hold more public meetings to hear from the community before they move forward with signing up volunteers.</blockquote

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

Dacono: Benzene tainted groundwater removed at site of tank battery

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Jennifer Kovaleski):

According to a report to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency responsible for regulating the industry, Anadarko discovered the contaminated ground water and soil while trying to dig up an old pump in early December.

Anadarko had to remove 200 barrels of tainted ground water, and lab tests found benzene 900 times the amount allowed by the state…

A spokeswoman for Anadarko said the company is in the process of removing a tank battery at the site and that’s how they discovered the toxic ground water.

COGCC said it is still conducting tests to figure that whether nearby water wells were contaminated, but said these types of releases usually don’t go beyond the immediate area.

Idaho Springs approves 2018 budget — The Clear Creek Courant

Idaho Springs photo credit by Priscila Micaroni Lalli (prilalli@gmail.com) – File:Montanhas Idaho Springs, CO.jpgFirst derivative version possibly by Dasneviano (talk).Second derivative version by Avenue (talk)., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6871667

From The Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

Greenway

The city received $2 million in Great Outdoors Colorado funding this year to put toward building a greenway trail through the city, according to Marsh.

“Bottom line is with the $2 million grant, the greenway will be completed,” Marsh said. “When the construction is done, the greenway will be completed from exit 239 on the west end of the city all the way to the roundabout.”

The city is planning and looking for additional grant funding to complete the greenway trail from the roundabout on the east end of town to near the Veterans Memorial Tunnels…

Other road projects

Marsh said other road projects the city will be taking next year include reconstructing Soda Creek Road and the portion of Miner Street near the Visitors Center, with the help of a 1 percent sales-tax boost approved by city residents in 2014.

“This project will be the first big project we’re doing from the 1 percent street sales tax approved by voters,” Marsh said. “We’re not only just doing the street, but we’re also redoing water and sewer lines, storm sewer, and it also includes part of the project cost (that) will be offset by a ($250,000) grant we received from (the Colorado Department of Local Affairs) for the water and sewer infrastructure.”

[…]

Additional projects

The city is also working on expanding its wastewater treatment plant, which won’t begin construction until 2019. However, planning will begin in 2018.

“And we’re hoping to use a combination of city funds, loans through the state and grants to make this project happen,” Marsh said.

Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Comment period starts for Hanging Lake formal draft Environmental Assessment

Hanging Lake: By Joshuahicks at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3074147

From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud) via The Aspen Times:

The U.S. Forest Service has released its formal draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Hanging Lake area, kicking off a final 30-day public comment period before the plan is to be implemented next May, the agency announced today.

The proposed management plan sticks to a permit-only, 615-visitor-per-day cap year round, as detailed in the preliminary plan that was released in August. It also establishes a fee-based, reservation-system shuttle service to be implemented during the peak time of year from May through October.

Forest officials, working with the city of Glenwood Springs, the Colorado Department of Transportation and others, have bee studying ways to better manage Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon in the face of increasing crowds at the popular area.

The management plan seeks to protect the natural resources and fragile ecosystem of the lake and the trail that provides access to the area from the effects of high use.

“In 2017, we saw 184,000 visitors at Hanging Lake, which is a 23 percent increase in only one year,” Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville said in a news release announcing the draft plan. “This data further underscores the importance of the long-term management solution, and I’m happy we’re making good progress with this Environmental Assessment.”
He said the proposed plan would benefit the fragile ecology of the area by limiting soil compaction, improving soil health, plant viability, stream health and wildlife habit.