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Air Force to mitigate water contamination with five-year plan


Picture poisons flowing from your faucet instead of drinkable water. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Picture poisons flowing from your faucet instead of drinkable water.
Air Force officials say they’ve got a five-year plan to mitigate contamination found in the Widefield aquifer last summer. But at a Feb. 2 presentation to El Paso County Commissioners, Col. Douglas Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander at Peterson Air Force Base, only shared limited details.

The ground around the base and the municipal airport will be rid of PFCs by 2022, he said, referring to the toxic chemicals found in drinking water that serves Security, Widefield and Fountain. The Air Force has admitted that a foamy fire retardant it has used on base for years could be the source of contamination, but that finding isn’t conclusive yet. An internal investigation will be made public this summer, he said, though state public health officials are investigating other possible sources too.

Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez, who represents the affected region, asked how much money the Air Force will put into the effort and who’d pay for more remediation if the chemicals are still around after the stated time frame. Scheiss answered that the Department of Defense is budgeting for it but that he’s not privy to the details. For now, the Air Force has pledged $4.3 million for filtration systems on private and municipal wells. PFCs take a very long time to break down so removing them is a difficult process.

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