@EPA PFAS “community engagement” hearing recap

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From TheDenverChannel.com (Lance Hernandez):

Residents who live in Fountain Valley southeast of Colorado Springs are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the perflourinated compounds which have contaminated their drinking water supplies.

The requests came during a two day “community engagement” event sponsored by the EPA.

“I think this is a big deal,” said Fran Silva-Blayney of the Sierra Club’s Fountain Creek Water Sentinels. “It’s a big deal in terms of bringing public awareness to the issue and in terms of the EPA recognizing that we need to take regulatory action.”

Silva-Blayney said the community wants the EPA to set “maximum contaminant levels.”

[…]

The contamination in the public water supplies of Fountain, Security and Widefield came from firefighting foam, which was used for decades at Peterson Air Force Base.

Health Impact

Several residents and former residents raised questions about the health impact of long-term exposure.

“My father died of kidney cancer last year,” said Mark Favors, a member of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition.

Favors told Denver7 that he was born and raised in the valley, and then moved to New York eight years ago.

“My cousin was here yesterday,” he said. “His grandson, at 14 years of age, had to have a kidney replaced, a transplant last year.”

“We would really like to know, do we have hereditary cancers, or do we have environmental cancers?” said Liz Rosenbaum, who founded the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition.

“Summit was amazing”

Rosenbaum said she is encouraged by what’s going on.

“The community wants to be more actively involved,” she said, adding that it’s a way to stay informed.

“When you’re scared, you get angry,” she said, “and if you know what’s going on, you can develop solutions and ideas.”

State health officials say they don’t know yet how widespread the contamination problem is in Colorado.

So far, contamination has been found during tests of public wells in the Fountain Valley, Commerce City and at a fire station on Sugar Loaf Mountain in Boulder County.

“We’re in the initial stages of identifying potential sources in the state,” said Kristy Richardson, an environmental toxicologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We’re looking at all those sources that have been used in industry and manufacturing.”

Advisory limit

The EPA’s advisory limit for Perfluorooctanesulfonic acids (PFOs) and PFAS is 70 parts per trillion.

Residents who attended the EPA’s meetings would like to make it a regulatory standard and much tougher than 70 ppt.

“We have a health advisory for two substances, in a family of 3,000… so we don’t know if we’re removing all of them,” Richardson said. “Residents are very concerned about getting them out (of the water) and making sure they’re not exposed to them anymore.”

From KRCC.org (Jake Brownell):

The Colorado Springs meeting was the third of four community forums scheduled across the country this summer, each hosted by the EPA, to collect feedback from people on the ground dealing with PFAS contamination.

“Understanding and addressing emerging contaminants such as PFAS is difficult, but critically important,” explained Doug Benevento, administrator of EPA Region 8, which includes Colorado and other western states. “The experiences and perspectives shared by state and local officials as well as community groups today, in addition to the numerous members of the public, will be invaluable as EPA develops a plan to manage PFAS.”

PFAS contamination is a growing concern among public health and water management professionals nationwide, with at least 40 states experiencing some form of contamination, according to the Environmental Working Group. The EPA says it has identified the issue as a high priority, and is in the process of developing new rules to regulate contamination levels in drinking water…

“We need regulatory infrastructure in order to, number one, compel investigation and clean up, but also to promote a more consistent approach to addressing PFAS nationwide,” Tracie White of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told EPA officials Wednesday.

Her concern was echoed by members of the public and by those responsible for managing affected drinking water systems, who urged the EPA to establish a legally-binding Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, for the chemicals.

“Health advisories have the same connotations and effect as maximum contaminant levels, but none of the support that an MCL provides,” said Brandon Bernard, water manager for Widefield Water and Sanitation.

For their part, EPA officials didn’t say whether an MCL would be forthcoming, but said the agency is looking at a range of options to regulate the chemicals, including listing them as “Hazardous Substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, otherwise known as Superfund. Jennifer McLain, deputy director of the agency’s Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water, said she couldn’t give a timeline for any future regulatory decisions, but stressed that the agency is “moving as quickly as possible.”

Over the course of the two day forum, residents of Security, Widefield, and Fountain also shared their experiences with contamination in the area. Liz Rosenbaum, who has lived in Security and Widefield for 15 years, spoke on behalf of the grassroots group, Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition…

Many community members also said that they feel they’ve been left out of important discussions about the future of their drinking water, and haven’t been treated as stakeholders in the process.

Still, Rosenbaum said the community forum was a good first step, and that she was encouraged by the dialogue that took place. Going forward, she said she hopes the conversation can continue, so that the “community feels more connected in decision making processes” as the EPA and other agencies work to address the issue of PFAS contamination here in El Paso County and nationwide.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

Over and over, residents and clean water advocates implored the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday evening to set enforceable drinking water standards for the toxic chemicals contaminating their water — and at tighter levels than the agency currently deems acceptable.

Their pleas came during the EPA’s third stop in a nationwide tour meant to help its leaders create a management plan for the toxic chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds. It marked the first opportunity in more than two years for people affected by the toxic chemicals to sound off to the EPA on the contamination of their drinking water.

Many argued that the EPA’s response was past due.

His voice cracking, Mark Favors, 49, listed several family members who drank the water most of their lives and have since died, many from kidney cancer. He read the obituary of one, Shelton Lee King, a retired master sergeant who served in Vietnam and died in 2012 of kidney cancer…

The EPA’s current process for regulating chemicals does not call for instituting any new drinking water standards for perfluorinated compounds until 2021.

Jennifer McLain, the agency’s deputy director in charge of groundwater and drinking water, said the agency is trying to accelerate that process, though she gave no timeline for when that might happen.

“We are working as quickly as we can,” McLain said.

So far, the EPA has only committed to evaluate the need for an enforceable drinking water standard for the two best-known types of perfluorinated compounds: perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

The EPA also is seeking to propose that those two chemicals be classified as “hazardous substances,” easing the process for seeking Superfund cleanup funding. And it is seeking to develop groundwater cleanup recommendations for both chemicals.

In addition, the agency is working to set toxicity levels for two other types of perfluorinated compounds. Neither was included in a different agency’s recent list of possibly dangerous chemicals.

The EPA’s management plan is due out by the end of the year.

From Colorado Public Radio (Anne Marie Awad):

Water managers for the El Paso County communities of Security, Widefield, Stratmore Hills, and Fountain have been working to rid their drinking water systems of Perfluorinated Chemicals since 2016. The contamination, discovered that year, traces back to firefighting foam used at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.
“Fifty years from now, 100 years from now, the Widefield Aquifer will still be contaminated if we don’t figure out a way to clean it,” said Fran Silva-Blayney, chair of the Sierra Club Fountain Creek Water Sentinels. “Is remediation even possible?”

Silva-Blayney was one of a handful of community stakeholders invited to speak at a listening session organized by the Environmental Protection Agency. Her comments and others carried the same message: the EPA isn’t doing enough.

“We are past the point of evaluating, proposing and recommending,” Silva-Balyney said. “People’s lives have been compromised. It’s time to regulate, enforce and remediate.”

In a statement, EPA Regional Administrator Doug Benevento said the community listening session would “inform our path forward in addressing PFAS in communities here in Colorado Springs and across the country.” Regulations are under consideration that would create an enforceable drinking water standard for two of the most common PFCs — mainly PFOS and PFOA.

Right now, EPA has an advisory in place, which isn’t enforceable. Water districts in the area have chosen, voluntarily, to make sure drinking water has no more than 70 parts per trillion of the chemicals. The agency could also classify certain PFCs as hazardous, and they’re developing groundwater cleanup recommendations if contamination is found.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.