USAF claims it was authorized to release toxic water, utilities dept. denies any authorization

Wastewater is stored in this tank from firefighting exercises on Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. Wastewater tainted with toxic chemicals used in firefighting foam originally thought to have been discharged by the Air Force into Colorado Springs' wastewater treatment system likely evaporated into the air in hot weather, officials said after an investigation. (AP Photo/Dan Elliott)
Wastewater is stored in this tank from firefighting exercises on Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. Wastewater tainted with toxic chemicals used in firefighting foam originally thought to have been discharged by the Air Force into Colorado Springs’ wastewater treatment system likely evaporated into the air in hot weather, officials said after an investigation. (AP Photo/Dan Elliott)


It’s not news to anyone who follows the hot topics coming out of the military, and it’s absolutely fact that the Air Force acknowledges the practice of dumping wastewater into Colorado’s Fountain Creek up to three times per year until 2015.

What’s left to be determined is the cause of an October 150,000-gallon release.

The Gazette is reporting that Peterson Air Force Base officials say standard operating procedures require two valves to be opened by an electronic switch, making it possible the release was intentional.

The wastewater in contention is known to contain high levels of perfluorinated compounds or PFCs. These PFCs are found in firefighting foam used throughout the military. The PFCs are linked to several forms of cancer along with other illnesses.

In a release dated August of this year, the Air Force said it’s in the process of changing the chemicals it uses to battle fires, and says the new chemicals are environmentally responsible.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are looking into the latest discharge of PFC laden wastewater at Peterson, officials said earlier this month.

Is the Air Force doing all it can to be a responsible steward of the environment and a good neighbor?

The service said it discovered the wastewater discharge in October and announced it six days later. The Air Force contends its earlier discharges of contaminated wastewater were “in accordance with (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,” Utilities spokesman Steve Berry said.

He called on the Air Force to release the alleged “guideline” the service cited. “That does not sound right to me at all,” Barry said.

Berry also said Colorado Springs Utilities has told the Air Force its firefighting foam isn’t welcome in city sewers.

The Gazette is also reporting the Air Force is facing fire from regional politicians after a Gazette investigation showed the service ignored decades of warnings from its own researchers in continuing to use the foam. Air Force studies dating to the 1970s determined the firefighting foam to be harmful to laboratory animals.

“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.

In an effort to determine groundwater contamination levels from foam used at the installation, the Air Force is drilling a series of test wells at Peterson.

The Air Force is reiterating its contention that the service has been a good neighbor. The service has contributed $4.3 million toward filtering water for surrounding communities. Peterson is also replacing the foam in its firetrucks with a chemical deemed less hazardous. The old foam is being disposed of as toxic waste.

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