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.

Potentially harmful blue-green algae confirmed in multiple Colorado lakes — 9News.com

Sloans Lake at sunrise via Redbubble.com

From 9News.com (Caitlin Hendee):

Boulder residents are advised to keep their children and animals out of Wonderland Lake in north Boulder and a similar warning was issued for Quincy Reservoir in Aurora.

Sloan’s Lake is the only body of water in Denver that has tested positive for the algae. Signs are posted there warning people not to swim or wade in the lake, though health officials said they haven’t heard of anyone getting sick from it.

Thunderbird Lake in southeast Boulder also has reports of blue-green algae. Swimming and wading are not allowed there.

Blue-green algae is a bacteria found in non-flowing freshwater that can be fatal to animals if ingested. The algae naturally occurs in aquatic ecosystems and can appear rapidly – especially during the summer with hot weather and in slow-moving water bodies, such as lakes, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment…

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, harmful algae blooms often have the following characteristics:

  • May look like thick pea soup or spilled paint on the water’s surface.
  • Can create a thick mat of foam along the shoreline.
  • Usually are green or blue-green, although they can be brown, purple or white.
  • Sometimes are made up of small specks or blobs floating just at or below the water’s surface
  • Blue-Green algae bloom

    Blue-green algae found at Pikeview Reservoir — @CSUtilities

    Cyanobacteria. By NASA – http://microbes.arc.nasa.gov/images/content/gallery/lightms/publication/unicells.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5084332

    Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:

    There is an increasing occurrence of toxic blue-green algae in reservoirs across the United States this year, forcing the limitation of recreational access to the bodies of water for public safety.

    In a recent test at Pikeview Reservoir, a popular fishing lake in central Colorado Springs and part of our water system, the bacteria was identified.

    While the reservoir is still safe for fishing, as a precautionary meaure, humans and pets are prohibited from entering the water until further notice. Anglers are directed to thoroughly clean fish and discard guts.

    We have removed Pikeview as a source for drinking water until the reservoir is determined to be clear of the algae. There are no concerns about this affecting water supply for our community.

    Presumptive testing has indicated levels of less than 5 mcg/L.

    Sickness including nausea, vomiting, rash, irritated eyes, seizures and breathing problems could occur following exposure to the blue-green algae in the water. Anyone suspicious of exposure with onset of symptoms should contact their doctor or veterinarian. For questions regarding health impacts of exposure, contact the El Paso County Health Department or Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    Warming temperatures have contributed to the growth of the bacteria.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Henderson):

    The popular fishing lake that lies just south of Garden of the Gods Road tested above acceptable limits for the bacteria the news release read. The water is still safe to fish in, but humans and pets are not allowed. Anglers are asked to clean the fish thoroughly and remove guts, according to the news release.

    The reservoir has been removed as a drinking water source, Utilities stated, however there are no concerns about the tainted water affecting the community.

    Should Rivers Have Same Legal Rights As Humans? A Growing Number Of Voices Say Yes — National Public Radio

    Satellite imagery of a toxic algal bloom on Lake Erie in 2011. The image is gorgeous, but microcystis aeruginosa, the green algae pictured here, is toxic to mammals.
    NASA Earth Observatory via Popular Science.

    From National Public Radio (Ashley Westerman):

    In early July, Bangladesh became the first country to grant all of its rivers the same legal status as humans. From now on, its rivers will be treated as living entities in a court of law. The landmark ruling by the Bangladeshi Supreme Court is meant to protect the world’s largest delta from further degradation from pollution, illegal dredging and human intrusion…

    Following the ruling, anyone accused of harming the rivers can be taken to court by the new, government-appointed National River Conservation Commission. They may be tried and delivered a verdict as if they had harmed their own mother, Matin says.

    “The river is now considered by law, by code, a living entity, so you’ll have to face the consequence by law if you do anything that kills the river,” [Mohammad Abdul Matin] says.

    What is environmental personhood?

    Bangladesh follows a handful of countries that have subscribed to an idea known as environmental personhood. It was first highlighted in essays by University of Southern California law professor Christopher D. Stone, collected into a 1974 book titled Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Stone argued that if an environmental entity is given “legal personality,” it cannot be owned and has the right to appear in court.

    Traditionally, nature has been subject to a Western-conceived legal regime of property-based ownership, says Monti Aguirre with the environmental group International Rivers.

    “That means … an owner has the right to modify their features, their natural features, or to destroy them all at will,” Aguirre says.

    The idea of environmental personhood turns that paradigm on its head by recognizing that nature has rights and that those rights should be enforced by a court of law. It’s a philosophical idea, says Aguirre, with indigenous communities leading the charge…

    In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to enshrine the legal rights of nature in its constitution. Bolivia passed a similar law in 2011. Meanwhile, New Zealand in 2017 became the first country to grant a specific river legal rights, followed by the Indian state of Uttarakhand. This year, the city of Toledo, Ohio, passed what is known as the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to protect its shores, making it one of several U.S. communities to have passed legislation recognizing the rights of nature

    In a 2018 study co-authored with Julia Talbot-Jones, O’Donnell shows that the onus of enforcement will fall on whoever is deemed the guardian of the waterway. And that can be anyone from a court-appointed body to the government itself — which may have chosen not to participate in environmentally friendly practices in the past — to nongovernmental organizations.

    In Ecuador, says O’Donnell, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature and others sued a construction company trying to build a road across the Vilcabamba River and initially won in court.

    But when the construction company didn’t comply with the court’s ruling, “the NGO could not afford to run a second case,” says O’Donnell.

    What’s more, the trans-boundary nature of rivers makes enforcement inherently difficult. This issue has come up in India, where the high court in Uttarakhand state in 2017 recognized the Ganges and Yamuna rivers as legal persons because of their “sacred and revered” status. The court named the state government as their guardians.

    Soon after, the state government appealed to the Indian Supreme Court, arguing “that their responsibilities as guardians of the rivers were unclear because the rivers extended well beyond the border of Uttarakhand,” says O’Donnell…

    he struggle to achieve this paradigm shift is also taking place on the shores of Lake Erie, in Toledo, Ohio. Earlier this year, the city passed an ordinance that would allow the its citizens to sue on behalf of the lake, arguing that it had gotten so polluted, there was no choice.

    The ordinance’s constitutionality was immediately challenged by a farm in a federal lawsuit. The farm argued the ordinance made it vulnerable “to massive liability” when it fertilizes its fields “because it can never guarantee that all runoff will be prevented from entering the Lake Erie watershed.” Then the state of Ohio joined that lawsuit, arguing it — not the citizens of Toledo — has the “legal responsibility” for environmental regulatory programs.

    “What’s interesting is the state of Ohio intervening on behalf of the polluter, not on behalf of the people who passed the law,” says Tish O’Dell, the Ohio community organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

    The lawsuit is ongoing, though O’Dell predicts the ordinance will ultimately be overturned.

    “But what I would say to people is it doesn’t matter what happens in the courts in Toledo with this case, because the genie has been let out of the bottle. And as hard as they want to try to put it back in, the people shouldn’t let them,” O’Dell says. “I mean, we have to change our environmental protection in this country and across the world, because obviously what we’re doing isn’t working.”

    #ColoradoSprings closes Prospect Lake in Memorial Park due to positive blue-green algae testing — Colorado Springs Gazette

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Henderson):

    Prospect Lake in Memorial Park has been closed indefinitely after a test found toxic blue-green algae in the water, Colorado Springs officials said Friday.

    A “precautionary water sample,” taken from the lake Friday morning by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, tested positive for mycrocystin toxin, also known as blue-green algae.

    The lake’s swim beach was roped off and closure signs were posted. Fishing areas remain open, but anglers are encouraged to clean the fish and remove guts. Rentals are not available, and pets are not allowed.

    “Given today’s positive test for mycrocystin toxin, we have closed Prospect Lake for usage,” said Erik Rodriguez of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services in a statement. “CDPHE will continue to test weekly until the bacteria clears up.”

    In the meantime, the city has banned swimming, bathing, paddleboarding, motorized and nonmotorized boats even with permits, tubing and water skiing.

    Prospect Lake in Memorial Park. By Beverly & Pack – Colorado Ballon Classic 2009, Labor Day Weekend, Prospect Lake in Memorial Park in Colorado Springs, CO. Uploaded by Tomer T, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19191608

    #AnimasRiver: #GoldKingMine update

    From The Albuquerque Journal (Therasa Davis) via The Farmington Daily Times:

    [After the August 5, 2015 spill]…The EPA paid state and tribal governments for emergency water tests, but initially denied 79 economic damage claims.

    In August 2017, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt – who resigned in July 2018 – visited the spill site and said the agency would reconsider the claims. The New Mexico Environment Department said Friday that it was unaware whether any of those payments have been made.

    Animas River at the New Mexico/Colorado State line August, 2015.

    NMED chief scientist Dennis McQuillan said there is ongoing monitoring to determine long-term effects of the spill.

    “Dozens of mines are leaking acid mine water into the watershed,” McQuillan said. “Gold King was just one of those.”

    Under new administrator Andrew Wheeler, the federal agency, its contractors and mining companies asked for dismissal of the lawsuits, arguing the EPA had immunity and was already working on cleanup.

    Environment Department general counsel Jennifer Howard said a federal judge in Albuquerque rejected that argument in March, so the lawsuits “should definitely start proceeding at a faster pace.”

    A November 2018 EPA report showed fish had elevated metal levels in the weeks after the spill, but returned to pre-spill levels by spring 2016.

    Gold King Mine Entrance after blow out on August 5, 2015. Photo via EPA.

    Research by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, New Mexico Game and Fish, Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Basin Public Health and Colorado Parks and Wildlife echo that claim.

    “The farming industry is still hurting,” McQuillan said. “I’ve talked to farmers who said their sales are down 25% from before the spill because people say they won’t buy food grown on the San Juan. But our agriculture products are safe. The fish are safe to eat. The river is safe for irrigation.”

    McQuillan said the federal WIIN Act (Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation) will provide money for the Navajo Nation to test fish in the spill area and start outreach to address the misconception that the river water is unsafe.

    In 2016, the EPA designated the area around the spill site as the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, which opens up money for cleanup and places the site on a priority action list. Howard and McQuillan agreed that was a positive development, but Superfund cleanup is a slow process.

    “It was a significant issue four years ago and remains a significant issue,” Howard said. “The motivation for our lawsuit is to have EPA step up to the plate and address the economic impact this (spill) had on agriculture and tourism for our state.”

    The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

    “This is an example of #climatechange in our own backyard. The reasons there are more algal blooms is because the temperatures are slightly warmer every year” — Ed Hall #ActOnClimate

    Cyanobacteria. By NASA – http://microbes.arc.nasa.gov/images/content/gallery/lightms/publication/unicells.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5084332

    From 9News.com (Marc Sallinger):

    The City of Greeley said algae is to blame for bad-tasting drinking water in the city.

    Recent hot weather caused algae blooms in two lakes where Greeley gets its water.

    Lake Loveland and Boyd Lake provide more than 20 million gallons of drinking water to the City of Greeley every day. The algae bloom left that water tasting like dirt and metal.

    “People don’t like water that tastes dirty,” said Ed Hall, Assistant Professor Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University.

    The blooms happen when there are nutrients in the water, hot days and not much wind…

    Algae releases byproducts that cause the water to taste and smell strange. Right now, Greeley’s water department said the byproducts released from the algae are 250 times stronger than usual.

    “This is an example of climate change in our own backyard. The reasons there are more algal blooms is because the temperatures are slightly warmer every year,” said Hall. “This isn’t going to go away. We really need to start thinking about how to protect ourselves and live with these as the earth becomes warmer every year.”

    […]

    The city said they are now treating the water to try and get all the taste and smell from the algae out of the water. They said it should be almost back to normal by the time it gets to your sink.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Meade):

    When the roughly 40 million gallons per day of potable — or drinkable — water consumed by Greeley residents started tasting and smelling noticeably different last week, the Water Department didn’t wait long to react. The department believes its swift response last weekend has effectively solved the problem, and Greeley water should now taste better.

    The problem: Concurrent algae blooms in both Boyd Lake and Lake Loveland, the major peak-months water sources from which the department draws and treats the water delivered to Greeley…

    That meant, Chambers said, that the option of turning off sourcing from one of Boyd Lake or Lake Loveland — from which much of the area’s water is drawn during the “peak” summer months — was not sufficient. While the department did end up turning off its delivery from Lake Loveland, where Chambers said it was determined the algae situation was “about four times” as bad as it was in Boyd Lake, the water coming from Boyd Lake was still affected with an unappealing taste and smell…

    The solution, then: Increase the activated carbon used to treat the water at the Boyd Lake treatment plant.

    “Activated carbon is a good way to remove (the poor taste and smell),” Chambers said. “It’s also very expensive, and it’s hard to get the dosage exactly right for the amount that we’re measuring, which is in parts per billion. Tiny, tiny molecules that have a fair amount of influence on taste and odor…

    Normally, activated carbon is used to treat the water in the 25 to 27 milligrams per liter range, Chambers said. But this dual algae bloom required more.

    “Last Friday, we turned off our Lake Loveland supply, which allowed our activated carbon dosage to do a better job pulling those odor-causing molecules out,” Chambers said. “Then we upped the dosage, as well.”

    Chambers said they began treating the water with about 35 milligrams per liter, up about 40% from the normal dosage. The department is continuing to use that increased dosage for the time being.

    “Our internal sampling has led us to believe that’s perfectly adequate for removing what’s needed,” Chambers said.

    The more southerly lakes become critical sources of water in the high-usage summer months, but the “workhorse” treatment plant is actually at the Poudre River Basin in Bellvue.

    “We treat our water at those two locations near the foothills where you can grab higher-quality source water than you can find in Greeley and deliver the water to Greeley,” Chambers said. “Visionary system that was developed in the early 1900s up at Bellvue.”

    Chambers emphasized the fact that even before treatment, while the water may have tasted differently, it was at no time unsafe to drink.