Catalyzing Solutions: Fountain Valley Water Study (Part II – Colorado)

By KEENAN WRIGHT

In 2016, the EPA detected contaminated water sites in three Colorado counties: Boulder, Denver, and El Paso, which includes the city of Colorado Springs. In response, Southern Colorado Springs residents in Fountain, Security, and Widefield formed a coalition focused on water quality.

Photo by Nick Penzel

Awareness of the issue increased when local community harvester, Venetucci Farms, was in the process of shutting down in early January of 2017. The farm had a rich history of pumpkin patches and providing the community with produce. During 2016, the farm was given a granular activated carbon filter by the Air Force due to high levels of per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Even with the filter, contamination levels were still higher than the EPA advisory level. The farm had to be shut down a few months later.

Peterson Air Force Base was also identified as a source of contamination due to their use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a suppressive agent used for fire training. This foam has been used since the 1940s and contains PFAS. Though the Air Force pays close to $1 million to provide filters and supply many with bottled water — in an effort to be a “concerned neighbor” — it has yet to take accountability for contamination.

On Aug. 3, 2018, the EPA came to Colorado Springs to hear the communities’ concerns and continue the conversation on water quality. The communities’ questions about safety and accountability made clear how difficult it is to communicate policy, health, and science to the public. Once the event was over, the community was left with more questions than answers and confused on what the next steps were.

Please read Part III in next week’s article to find out how Colorado College is getting involved in this pressing issue.

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