Roy Heald says he doesn't have a problem drinking the water in Security, Colorado. But the district manager for the town of 19,000 south of Colorado Springs admits he's not pregnant, lactating or bottle-feeding an infant. People in those groups may be most affected by a recent advisory from the Environmental Protection Agency that says portions of the town's water supply have been contaminated by potentially harmful chemicals.
In May, the agency reduced the levels for allowable contamination by perfluorinated chemicals from 0.4 micrograms per liter to 0.07 micrograms per liter, almost 10 times less. The advisory only provides technical guidelines to states and regulation isn't mandatory, however it has had a great impact in Security.
"The EPA lowered the standards below what we had anticipated; and then the problem was the new health advisory was so much more stringent that none of our wells would meet them," Heald said. "Different people have different concerns. The health advisory is protecting the most sensitive members of the population -- pregnant women, fetuses, infants...I'm a healthy middle-aged male so I feel my risk is low. But I understand that others rightfully have concerns."
Well water has been most affected by the advisory; Heald said that supply is largely being replaced by surface water. However, he adds that there's not enough at present to meet peak demand -- and water usage is as much as five times greater during the summer.
Wells have been shut down and other steps, like the installation of new pipes and building filtration structures, are underway. The problem is paying for them. Heald says the cost will eventually have to be passed on to customers.
"We've been asking for help from anyone who will listen for some financial support but no one has offered," he said. "There's no party that's been found to be responsible for the contamination, so no one's stepped up to pay for this."