Colorado Has $500,000 Ready For PFAS Water Testing. So Far, There Are Few Takers

January 13, 2020
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.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.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.

Colorado officials will continue to reach out to drinking water districts to encourage testing for synthetic chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances — otherwise known to the public under the PFAS acronym umbrella.

The sign-up rate, however, has been minimal.

About one week into the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s campaign, officials said about 8 percent of Colorado’s roughly 890 drinking water districts have signed up for tests.

“This is a priority because we’ve seen instances of contamination with these chemicals often found in firefighting foam elsewhere in the state,” said Ron Falco, CDPHE's safe drinking water program manager. “We want to understand the scope of the problem and help break that chain of consumption if we can.”

That's not to say that officials aren't pleased with the sign-up rate so far. They plan to send email notifications to drinking water districts to remind them of the available funds over the coming weeks.

In 2016, drinking water districts in the towns of Security, Widefield and Fountain detected PFAS chemicals in drinking water that exceeded the health advisory recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency. Health officials later connected the elevated levels of chemicals to a specific type of firefighting foam used at nearby Peterson Air Force Base.

The EPA has linked higher exposure levels of PFAS chemicals to a number of health concerns, particularly for women who are pregnant or nursing.

While the federal agency's current advisory limits are voluntary, they are determining whether to formally regulate two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS. A decision is expected later in 2020.