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The toxins in Peterson Air Force Base firefighting foam tainted aquifer, lawsuit claims

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A water utility company and the owner of a farm in Security-Widefield, Colo., adjacent to Colorado Springs are suing the federal government for at least $18.3 million, claiming that, for decades, the Air Force ignored its own policies on hazardous waste disposal, tainting the water supply.

While previous claims by El Paso County residents targeted the makers and distributors of the firefighting foam that polluted the Widefield aquifer, the lawsuit filed by the Security Water District and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, owner of Venetucci Farm, directly targets the U.S. government under the federal Torts and Claims Act, the Gazette reports.

Ffirefighters extinguish a simulated No. 3 engine fire during capability demonstration of the P-34 Rapid Intervention Vehicle at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 21, 2014. (Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya/Air Force)
New Mexico sues US Air Force over groundwater contamination

New Mexico on Tuesday sued the U.S. Air Force over groundwater contamination at two bases, saying the federal government has a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities.

The firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force Base and scores of other Air Force bases around the world contained per- and polyfluorinated compounds, also called PFCs or PFAS, which have been linked to cancers, developmental delays for fetuses and infants and substances, and other serious health effects. Those compounds have seeped into the ground at and around those installations and contaminated the drinking water.

In addition to the health concerns, the contamination has also resulted in quantifiable economic losses for the communities that host the bases.

The Security Water District, which is just south of Peterson Air Force Base, got half of its water from the aquifer and is now seeking at least $14.2 million recoup the cost of piping in clean water from the Pueblo Reservoir, paying a premium to buy water from Colorado Springs Utilities and clean up PFCs.

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation is seeking nearly $3.2 million for past and future agriculture losses at the farm, a community icon famous for giving pumpkins away to area schoolchildren. The farm straddles one of the most contaminated portions of the aquifer. That total also would pay for a treatment system so the farm could again irrigate its crops.

Air Force officials say they have no authority to reimburse communities for money spent to combat the pollution that its bases may have caused.

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