Air Force completes #PFOS/#PFOA Site Inspection at the Academy, expanded inspection set to begin

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Air Force Academy, Colorado. By Greg Goebel – https://www.flickr.com/photos/37467370@N08/7303434226, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22282943

Here’s the release from the Air Force Academy:

Air Force officials released the results of a 2018-2019 Site Inspection at the U.S. Air Force Academy that assessed the potential for Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) presence in ground water, surface water, soil and sediment samples stemming from past firefighting activities.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center confirmed that groundwater samples from several areas on the Academy were found to be above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lifetime Health Advisory (LHA) levels of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA.

PFOS and PFOA are part of a family of synthetic fluorinated chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, used for many years in industrial and consumer products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, as well as in commercial industry and military firefighting foam.

Colorado Springs Utilities supplies the drinking water to the Air Force Academy and has not detected these compounds at its water treatment facilities above the method reporting limit of 10 ppt, including its most recent voluntary sampling conducted in the 1st quarter 2019.

However, because levels above the LHA were found in groundwater on the Academy, drinking water wells south of the base could be impacted.

The Air Force will conduct an Expanded Site Inspection in the coming months to assess potential risk to private wells south of the Academy, primarily in the Woodmen Valley area

“We share community concerns about the possible impacts past use of these chemicals may have on human drinking water sources,” said Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander. “We will work closely with AFCEC to protect human health and conduct a thorough inspection to ensure safe drinking water.”

Where Air Force operations are found to have contributed to PFOS and PFOA levels in drinking water above the EPA LHA, the Air Force will take immediate action to ensure residents whose private drinking water wells are impacted have access to safe drinking water.

The EPA established a LHA level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water in 2016. The Air Force Academy is one of 203 installations the Air Force identified as a potential Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) release location.

For more information on the Air Force response to PFOS/PFOA, please visit: https://www.afcec.af.mil/WhatWeDo/Environment/Perfluorinated-Compounds/

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder):

Air Force Academy firefighter training a quarter century ago released a torrent of toxic perfluorinated chemicals that seeped into groundwater and flowed into Monument Creek, a 15,000-page Air Force report released Friday shows.

A series of tests by Air Force researchers showed groundwater had 1,000 times the level of perfluorinated compounds considered safe by state and federal regulators. Records on the training that used firefighting foam loaded with the chemicals are spotty to non-existent at the academy, the report said, but hazy recollections of the training, which ran from the late 1980s to the early 1990s at the pit, less than 100 yards from the creek, led to the recent tests.

Colorado’s health department on Friday recommended that anyone who uses groundwater south of the academy who hasn’t had their well tested should switch to bottled water. The same holds true for anyone whose wells exceed the EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion after testing.

About 30 domestic or household wells exist within one mile downstream of the Air Force Academy, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The Air Force plans to go door-to-door in the affected area to determine if private wells are being used for drinking water, the agency said. In the process, the Air Force plans to take up to 125 drinking water samples from potentially affected private or municipal drinking water wells.

“Our focus is on ensuring no one is drinking water above the EPA’s (advisory level),” the academy said in an email. “In the event any human drinking water sources (are) believed impacted … the Air Force will take immediate measures to provide bottled water or other alternative sources until more permanent mitigation can be installed.”

Colorado Springs Utilities says the chemicals from the academy won’t impact drinking water in the city.

The utility said its wells on and near the Air Force Academy have hardly — if ever — been used. The utility has traditionally relied solely on surface water to supply people on its system. The last time the utility used any wells in its system was around 2002 or 2003, during a significant drought, said Steve Berry, a utilities spokesman. That use was “very limited,” Berry said, though he was unsure whether wells near the academy were used at that time.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ellie Mulder, Jakob Rodgers):

Plans are underway to begin testing drinking water wells south of the academy in the Woodmen Valley area after unsafe levels of the chemicals were found at four locations on base, the academy said Thursday.

It was unclear Thursday evening how many people and wells could be impacted.

The discovery of perfluorinated compounds at the academy opened a new front in the region’s battle against chemicals that have fouled an aquifer serving more than 64,000 people just 20 miles to the south, outside Peterson Air Force Base.

And it threatened to push the price tag to remove the chemicals from drinking water here ever higher, beyond the $50 million spent by the Air Force…

Air Force officials stressed that drinking water at the academy wasn’t affected — the base is supplied by Colorado Springs Utilities, which has not detected the chemicals in its water.

Utilities customers south of the academy should not have detectible exposure to the chemicals, said Dave Padgett, the utility’s chief environmental officer.

Unclear, however, is whether residents in that area are using private wells for drinking water and if the wells are contaminated.

Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, an academy spokeswoman, pledged relief for anyone affected.

“Bottom line, we will do everything we can immediately to ensure people have safe drinking water,” including providing bottled water, Bunko said.

Four sites on the academy were found to have chemical levels higher than an Environmental Protection Agency lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, said Michael Kucharek, another academy spokesman. He declined to name the location of those sites.

An August 2018 Air Force report, however, suggested four possible test sites during such an inspection:

• the academy’s fire training area;

• a fire station and a spray test area;

• an airfield spray test area;

• the academy’s water treatment plant and nonpotable reservoir.

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