- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Air Force officials say a base near Colorado Springs sent water laced with toxic firefighting foam into the city’s sewer system as often as three times a year.

In an email sent to The Gazette (https://goo.gl/0ugZAi ), the officials wrote that Peterson Air Force Base stopped sending firefighting foam wastewater into sewers last year. The foam is suspected of contaminating the Widefield Aquifer, rendering well water for customers in nearby Security, Widefield and Fountain unsafe to drink.

The Air Force contends the release of contaminated wastewater was in accordance with the city’s utilities guidelines, which Colorado Springs Utilities disputes.

“I’m not aware that we have ever authorized them to discharge that firefighting foam into the system,” said Utilities spokesman Steve Berry, who called on the Air Force to release the “guidelines” the service cited to justify its actions.

The foam contains perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, which have been linked to prostate, kidney and testicular cancer. The chemicals, which can’t be removed by the city’s sewage treatment plant, flowed into Fountain Creek and eventually the Widefield Aquifer.

The effect on other water users is unclear. Colorado Springs’ and Pueblo’s drinking water does not come from the creek.

Meanwhile, investigators are looking into the recent discharge of 150,000 gallons of chemical-laden water from the base.

Berry said the latest release of contaminated water from a holding tank on Peterson flowed through the sewage treatment plant before the utility was told about it. That means utility workers had no way to measure the toxicity of the water.

“Once we were notified, that stuff had long moved through our system,” he said.

A probe into the discharge is ongoing and involves the Environmental Protection Agency and the service’s Office of Special Investigations.

Peterson officials said last week that releasing the contaminated water near the base’s fire training area required opening two valves and activating an electric switch, making it possible that the discharge was intentional.

“We are working together with the community as a good neighbor who has a portion of our 12,000 employees in the affected area,” the Air Force said Friday.

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Information from: The Gazette, https://www.gazette.com

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