SECURITY – A multi-million dollar lawsuit has been filed against the federal government because of groundwater contamination from the use of firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base.
Both the Security Water District and Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which controls Venetucci Farms on the south end of Colorado Springs, seek $17-million in damages in the wake of the 2016 discovery of contamination from PFCs (perfluorochemicals) and PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances).
Attorneys argue negligence as the cause for relief on behalf of the entities. Negligence for disposal of the chemicals, remediation of contamination, and breaching a responsibility to prevent dangerous conditions on the defendant’s property.
The filing states “until 2016, one of Security’s primary water sources was groundwater from the Widefield and Windmill Gulch Aquifers” which “historically supplied about half of Security’s water requirements.” Specifically, the water came from a system of 24 wells owned by the water district.
The Air Force has admitted it’s use of firefighting foam which contains cancer causing agents (polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that seeped into the groundwater.
It’s happened in other communities around the country. In fact, the State of New Mexico has also filed a similar lawsuit.
Here’s a breakdown of the damages sought:
- $1,770,915 “for costs incurred by Security to acquire and deliver alternative water supplies..”
- $3,761,486 “for costs incurred by Security to construct, install, and modify pipelines and other infrastructure necessary to take delivery of and distribute the alternative water supplies”
- $33,721 “for the cost of adjusting management of water quality in its delivery system” by Security after shutting down wells”
- $36,221 “for the cost of sampling and obtaining laboratory analysis for PFCs in its wells”
- $25,186 “for the cost of staff time and professional services to respond to public inquiries and manage public relations..”
- $8,587,000 “for reasonably ascertainable future costs of operating, for a period of twenty years, a system to be installed by the United States for removal of PFCs from Security’s water rights”
- $843,389 “for past and reasonably ascertainable future obligations on its water lease with Pikes Peak Community Foundation, or, in the alternative, award Pikes Peak Community Foundation $843,389 for past and reasonably ascertainable future lost rent on the lease”
- $1,505,690 to Pikes Peak Community Foundation “for past and reasonable ascertainable future losses of revenue from agricultural production resulting from contamination..”
- $1,676,000 to Pikes Peak Community Foundation “for the reasonably ascertainable cost of installing and operating for at least twenty years a treatment system to allow resumption of irrigation”
- $14,400 to Pikes Peak Community Foundation “for water and soil testing costs incurred due to groundwater contamination”
- Costs incurred by the lawsuit
- “other and further relief as the Court deems just”
The alternative water sources mentioned in the lawsuit include the Colorado Springs Utilities water system, Fountain Valley Authority Conduit, and the Southern Delivery System pipeline.
The CDC plans to randomly select people in the communities to participate in exposure assessments. Levels of PFAS will be checked through urine and blood sampling. The assessments will begin this year.
Since the 2016 discovery of the source of contamination to the water supply, the City of Fountain has installed new groundwater treatment systems and say the drinking water supply is safe.
All of the communities selected for this effort are near active or closed Air Force or Air National Guard installations.
- Berkeley County (WV) near Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base
- El Paso County (CO) near Peterson Air Force Base
- Fairbanks North Star Borough (AK) near Eielson Air Force Base
- Hampden County (MA) near Barnes Air National Guard Base
- Lubbock County (TX) near Reese Technology Center (formerly Reese AFB)
- Orange County (NY) near Stewart Air National Guard Base
- New Castle County (DE) near New Castle Air National Guard Base
- Spokane County (WA) near Fairchild Air Force Base
The CDC reports PFAS have been found in industrial and consumer products since the 1950’s. Including: in non-stick cookware; water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets; some cosmetics; some firefighting foams; and products that resist grease, water, and oil.
“Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposure to PFAS. Some studies have shown that PFAS exposure may affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children; lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant; interfere with the body’s natural hormones; increase cholesterol levels; affect the immune system; and increase the risk of cancer,” the CDC states in a release.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency hosted a meeting in Fountain to explain how they regulate cancer-causing chemicals linked to firefighting foam used on Peterson Air Force Base.
The EPA’s plan is to recommend a new standard drinking water regulations by the end of the year which call for lower allowable levels of the potentially dangerous chemicals.
PFAS Exposure Assessment or PFAS – https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/index.html