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Firefighting foam ban signed by governor

COLORADO SPRINGS – Colorado Governor Jared Polis has signed a bipartisan bill championed by a quartet of lawmakers from El Paso County banning the use of firefighting foam containing the chemical pollutant perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, commonly referred to as PFAS.

Beginning on August 2, all fire departments in Colorado will be prevented from using the Class B firefighting foam for training purposes; it can only be used in real-life emergencies. Then in August of 2021, the sale of foams containing the PFAS will be banned completely. Manufacturers will also be required to disclose the chemical composition of their products.

According to the EPA, PFAS were first developed in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In addition to their use in firefighting foams, other commercial applications include as a non-stick coating for cookware and food packaging as well as a stain repellant.

The compound doesn’t break down naturally and levels can accumulate in humans and animals as well as in the soil and water over time. US Chemical manufacturers voluntarily stopped producing the compounds in 2015. The following summer, the EPA set a health advisory level for PFAS exposure in drinking water to 70 parts per trillion.

Water samples taken from various wells in the Fountain Valley in the Summer of 2016 showed elevated PFAS levels that exceeded the 70 ppt threshold. The suspected source of the pollution was firefighting foam used during training at Peterson Air Force Base.

“Over the years, it got into the soil, it got into the water,” said State Rep. Tony Exum, a Democrat from Colorado Springs. He co-sponsored House Bill 19-1279 with Republican State Rep. Lois Landgraf. State Senators Pete Lee and Dennis Hisey sponsored the measure in the Senate.

Landgraf said it was a pleasure to work with her colleagues on this “extremely important bill.”

“A bill that will help prevent further contamination of the water in the Fountain Valley which was the most populated area in the nation to be affected by PFOA AND PFAS,” she said.

According to the EPA, studies on lab animals showed the compounds can cause tumors, are harmful to the liver, kidneys, the immune system and have adverse effects on reproduction and development.

“I think people realize this was not only a good piece of legislation, but it was smart legislation and it was needed legislation,” Rep. Exum said.

Officials with the City of Fountain tell News 5 that the Air Force has been a great partner who is leaning forward to help build a water treatment system that will filter out the chemicals. The head of the Colorado Department Public Health and Environment will visit the community next month in an effort to raise awareness in state government about the environmental impact of PFAS.

Researchers with the US Food and Drug Administration shared new findings from a study which discovered elevated levels of PFAS in grocery store foods during a scientific convention in Finland last week. According to the Associated Press, the researchers measured elevated levels of the compound in raw meat, seafood, and pre-packaged chocolate cakes.

Andy Koen

Andy Koen

Andy is a reporter and anchor for KOAA-TV News 5. He joined the team in 2003.
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