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Toxic firefighting chemicals contaminate groundwater at Air Force Academy

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The U.S. Air Force Academy says unsafe levels of toxic chemicals from firefighting foam were found in groundwater at four sites on the Colorado campus.

The Gazette reported Thursday that officials plan to test drinking water wells in an area between the academy and Colorado Springs. Air Force officials say drinking water at the academy is not affected.

The base gets water from Colorado Springs Utilities, which has not found the chemicals in its water.

It is not yet clear whether the private wells of area residents are contaminated.

Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, an academy spokeswoman, pledged relief for anyone affected, the Gazette reported.

“Bottom line, we will do everything we can immediately to ensure people have safe drinking water,” including providing bottled water, Bunko said.

Four sites on the academy were found to have chemical levels higher than an Environmental Protection Agency lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion, said Michael Kucharek, another academy spokesman.

The perfluorinated compounds found in the water have been linked to the firefighting foam used for decades by the Air Force. The chemicals are also found several household products.

The chemicals have also been discovered in areas of around Peterson Air Force Base, where scores of both on-base and off base water sources have tested significantly above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended exposure for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFAS) or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The compounds were part of the military’s firefighting foam until just last year. The compounds have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and infants.


Peterson’s contamination ranges from 79 to 88,400 parts per trillion in its on-base wells and 79 to 7,910 parts per trillion in public and private drinking wells off base.

The Air Force has spent about $50 million to address the contamination at Peterson, but none of that money has been used to actually remove the chemicals, an effort that is still years away, according to Air Force officials.

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