UPDATE: Peterson AFB announces week-old pollution discharge


Peterson Air Force Base's 21st Space Wing reports today that there was a significant discharge of contaminated water on Oct. 12.
  • Peterson Air Force Base's 21st Space Wing reports today that there was a significant discharge of contaminated water on Oct. 12.
Peterson Air Force Base got back to us late yesterday with additional information in response to our questions, as follows:
It's important to note that this discharge was unplanned and even though there are no EPA mandated reporting requirements, as good neighbors and residents of the community, we reported the unplanned discharge to CSU within 24 hours after discovery. Our environmental professionals are working with their counterparts at CSU to explore the notification process moving forward.

To answer your question, the tank is visually inspected quarterly, and
before and after any training at the simulator. The last quarterly
inspection was conducted 29 July, and the last training was held 22 Sept before the discharge was discovered. 
Also, KRCC reports, quoting a Peterson source, that it wouldn't be simple to drain the tank, because that requires opening not one, but two valves as well as activating a lever. Officials are investigating the cause of the discharge.

——-ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, OCT. 18, 2016, 3:23 P.M.———————-

Peterson Air Force Base says 150,000 gallons of water containing "an elevated level" of perfluorinated compounds were discharged into Colorado Springs Utilities' sewage system, unbeknownst to the base, sometime prior to Oct. 12.

To put that into perspective, that's enough water to fill about a quarter of an Olympic size swimming pool.

The water went through CSU's Las Vegas Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is not equipped to remove those compounds from the water before it's dumped into Fountain Creek. From there it flows to Pueblo where the creek meets the Arkansas River as it flows to Kansas and beyond.

Pueblo Board of Water Works was not notified of the discharged, says CSU spokesman Steve Berry. It's the responsibility of the discharging agency, not CSU, to make notifications, he noted.

"It's kind of hard for us, because it was limited what we can do as a utility," Berry said. "By the time Peterson notified us — they did notify us within the 24-hour requirement — it had already gone through our system and through the Las Vegas treatment plant."

He adds that he's not aware of any treatment plants in the country that remove PFCs, "unless they're using some sophisticated reverse osmosis" process.

CSU received notification from Peterson verbally and in an email on Oct. 13. The base is required to file a report with the state and the EPA, Berry says.

Here's Peterson's release, which is sure to ramp up concern over the PFCs, which already have triggered lawsuits and outrage in the Fountain Valley due to contaminated wells that residents fear will permanently affect the values of their properties, not to mention pose a risk to their health.
An unplanned water discharge from a Peterson fire training area was discovered Oct. 12.

About 150,000 gallons of water being held in a fire training area retention tank was discharged into the Colorado Springs Utilities sewer system sometime in the last week. The tank held water that contained an elevated level of perfluorinated compounds, a residual component of aqueous film forming foam, a firefighting foam historically used at the base for emergency response.

Air Force officials reported the discharge to Colorado Springs Utilities within 24 hours after discovery, and an official report was made within a five-day window, as requested by CSU.

Authorities at Peterson discovered the discharge during a routine tank inspection Oct. 12. The tank is part of a system used to recirculate water to the fire training area.

"We take this type of event seriously, and will work diligently to determine the cause," said Lt. Col. Chad Gemeinhardt, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander. "We are committed to upholding environmental stewardship policies and procedures."

An investigation into the incident is ongoing to determine how the discharge occurred and a review is underway to determine if there are gaps in procedures or training.

"Peterson Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force are committed to protecting the environment and communities in which we call home," said Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander. "We take all environmental concerns seriously, and have opened an investigation to determine the cause of the discharge and to prevent it from happening again."

When PFCs were discovered earlier this year in well water south of the base, the Air Force proactively provided $4.3 million to filter and provide drinking water to affected residents while an investigation of potential source areas is conducted. Officials are confident these ongoing mitigation strategies are sufficient to address any potential contamination from the discharge.

We've contacted Peterson and asked when the water was discharged, how often the tank in question is inspected and why Pueblo authorities weren't immediately notified. If and when we hear back, we'll update.

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