By Logan Smith

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Air Force Academy announced Monday the results of additional well water tests conducted on the campus last month as military air bases around the country continue to actively determine whether a toxic chemical previously used during aircraft fire training exercises drained into neighboring off-base water supplies.

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The tests from eight wells on the southeast perimeter of the Academy grounds found levels of Perfluorooctane sulfonate and Perfluorooctanoic acid measured below the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lifetime Health Advisory level of 70 parts-per-trillion, the Academy stated in a press release.

Forty private water wells in the communities to the south of the Academy were tested in September and October of 2019. Those tests also showed levels below the EPA’s guidelines. In some cases, no trace of the chemical was found at all.

(credit: Getty Images)

“These latest test results show these chemicals have not reached the installation boundary and there has been little to no movement,” said Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander. “That said, we understand the importance of updating our neighbors to ease concerns raised and will continue to share monitoring well results as we get it.”

PFOS and PFOA are part of a family of synthetic fluorinated chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances previously used in several industrial applications. The chemical was a common ingredient in foam used by firefighters at commercial and military airports. Foam was, and continues to be, effective in combating highly volatile accidents involving airplane fuel.

A firetruck hoses down a fire during a live-fire training exercise Jan. 24, 2020, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. (credit: Airman 1st Class Andrew Kobialka/366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Knowledge of health affects from exposure to PFAS chemicals is expanding, but the known effects include some changes in humans’ hormones, organ function, and risks to cancers.

More than 4,700 forms of PFAS are known to exist.

Concern about the chemicals use in Colorado first publicly arose in 2016 when the EPA shut down several wells in the town of Fountain and unincorporated communities of Security and Widefield, all in the downhill drainage of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

As a result, the water district in Security quickly arranged for new water supply from a Pueblo source.

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A lawsuit seeking $18 million in damages from the federal government was filed in March of 2019 based on the findings near Peterson AFB.

In the Denver metro area, three wells were also shut down in Commerce City in 2018 after tests confirmed the presence of the compounds there. More thorough testing in the drainages north and east of Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora have commenced since then.

Air Force Academy campus (credit: CBS)

Air Force Academy officials say its firefighters used the PFAS-laiden foam from the 1970s until 1990. A new foam formula is used that meets newer EPA guidelines. 

 

Logan Smith

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