Fountain has received the second of two Air Force-supplied water filters aimed at removing toxic chemicals fouling an underground aquifer.
The delivery Wednesday of the granular-activated carbon filters marked another milestone in the city's efforts to avoid the fouled Widefield Aquifer, which is contaminated with chemicals linked to a Peterson Air Force Base firefighting foam.
But it also came amid deep concern by local leaders about the lack of further Air Force aid, especially as local communities spend millions of dollars addressing the issue.
Fountain last used the aquifer in 2015, and residents have been asked to conserve water while the city relies solely on the Pueblo Reservoir.
The city's first Air Force-supplied filter will likely be operational in about four to six weeks, said Curtis Mitchell, Fountain's utilities director.
The filter delivered Wednesday likely won't be turned on until spring 2018, because it won't be needed during the fall and winter, when water usage dips, Mitchell said.
"The focus will be to have everything up and running in time for next summer," Mitchell said. "It gets us the capacity we really need for peak days, so it helps us a lot."
On Wednesday, Mitchell stressed appreciation for the filters. But he also voiced concern about the Air Force's lack of plans to reimburse communities.
So far, the Security, Widefield and Fountain water districts have spent more than $6 million to avoid perfluorinated compounds in the aquifer. The chemicals have been linked to a host of health ailments including cancer and low infant birth weight.
Those costs are expected to rise to $12.7 million by the end of 2018.
In the meantime, Air Force officials have promised $4.3 million in aid.
But only about $1.7 million of that will go to the districts' tab, a Gazette analysis found. The rest is going to the purchase of bottled water and filters, including Fountain's set.
The Air Force is still studying its role in the contamination, and has said other sources "likely" played a part. It expects to begin studying remediation efforts in 2019, with implementation of that plan coming sometime in the 2020s, pending congressionally-approved funding.
Last week, Air Force officials said they're not in the business of reimbursement.
That's raised alarm among local elected officials. El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller, a former Air Force officer, demanded the Air Force take responsibility for the contamination and pay up.
"It sounds like, after a year, people are going to be left to their own devices to figure this out on their own," Waller said during the commissioners' regular meeting on Tuesday. "It's time that the Air Force step up and take responsibility for this disaster that's facing our community."