Colorado Lawmakers Call For More Federal Money To Clean Up Chemical Contamination From PFAS

Dan Boyce/CPR News
The Security water tower stands over the town, July 29, 2019. Until a new water treatment center is finished to appropriately filter PFAS, the local water district will continue to buy water from nearby Colorado Springs.

Local environmental activists and state lawmakers gathered near Colorado Springs on Tuesday to call for more federal support to clean up toxic chemical contamination near some of the state’s military bases, including the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Firefighting foams used regularly on military bases for decades leached per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances into local groundwater supplies. In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory warning of a connection between PFAS chemicals and certain types of cancer.

The military has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on cleanup nationwide, including $50 million at Peterson Air Force Base alone. Speakers at the event organized by nonprofit Environment Colorado said much more funding is still needed.

Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition founder Liz Rosenbaum urged Colorado’s congressional delegation to fight for more PFAS cleanup funds in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

“We have done everything that we can possibly do from the local level, from our city, the county and the state,” Rosenbaum said. “This is a national contamination because it has been done by the Department of Defense. So we have to look to Congress and our elected officials in D.C.”

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn sits on the conference committee which is working out differences between Senate and House versions of the NDAA. Lamborn’s office did not send a representative to the press conference.

Republican state Sen. Dennis Hisey said he doesn’t think it matters where the money comes from, as long as congressional leaders work to raise awareness of how much is left to do in cleaning up these so-called “forever chemicals.”

“Whether the military does it or it's some other federal funding, it's all money that came from taxpayers that's being sent to the federal government," Hisey said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently chose El Paso County as one of seven sites in the country to each receive $1 million to further study the relationship between PFAS-contaminated drinking water and certain health outcomes.

PFAS contamination has also been found in parts of north Denver and in a firehouse near Boulder.