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More Colorado Springs-area homes may be using contaminated water

May 25, 2016 Updated: May 25, 2016 at 10:27 pm
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photo - Location of the Widefield Aquifer from The Widefield Aquifer Management Program presentation.
Location of the Widefield Aquifer from The Widefield Aquifer Management Program presentation. 

El Paso County health officials are aware of more people using water contaminated with chemicals that may cause low infant birth weight.

Security Mobile Home Park, which has about 150 residents, and the Fountain Valley Shopping Center appear, to be drawing from Widefield aquifer wells with unhealthy levels of perfluorinated compounds, said Tom Gonzales, El Paso County Public Health's deputy director, during a Board of Health meeting Wednesday.

Further, residents on the western end of Security and Widefield may be using water with unhealthy levels of the compounds, water district managers said. That is because efforts to dilute it do not appear to work well enough.

Infants, pregnant and nursing women and women planning to become pregnant who live in those areas may want to switch to bottled or treated water, health officials say.

The warnings come amid rising concern across the nation about perfluorinated compounds, otherwise known as PFCs. They have been used in a variety of products, including firefighting foams, furniture fabrics, food wrappers and in chemicals used to protect carpets and clothing.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate the chemicals, but they are on a list of potential pollutants that might be regulated in the future.

Still, the EPA has issued advisories. And last week, the agency lowered the PFC-content threshold for issuing health advisories to 70 parts per trillion.

It's a lifetime advisory - meaning adverse health effects might happen after prolonged use over years. Those effects include low infant birth weights and kidney and testicular cancer.

The Widefield aquifer, which stretches along Interstate 25 from the Stratton Meadows area to Fountain and east to the Colorado Springs Airport, appears to be the only aquifer in Colorado contaminated by PFCs at levels triggering health alerts. The contaminants' source remains unknown.

Different types of wells pull from the aquifer.

Concerns first centered on public wells, which help supply water to thousands of people in the area via a few water districts. Some of those wells tested positive for elevated levels of PFCs during initial tests by the EPA. In those cases water from the Pueblo Reservoir was used to dilute the chemicals.

However, in a few areas, those efforts may not be working well enough, officials with the Widefield Water and Sanitation District and Security Water and Sanitation Districts said.

Each district serves roughly 18,000 or 19,000 residents. Water serving some of those people - especially those on the western end of each district - may be using water with too many PFCs. That is based on tests performed prior to the middle of last week, and further testing is ongoing.

In Security, the issue may be of particular concern on peak water usage days, when the district must use a higher ratio of well water to meet demand, said Roy Heald, general manager of the Security Water and Sanitation Districts.

As a result, the Security water district will institute voluntary watering restrictions from June 1 to Oct. 1 to limit water usage, he said. Those restrictions are three days a week, based on address.

El Paso County Public Health officials also have been testing private wells, which are often only used by one household and tap directly into the aquifer, meaning they do not include water from other sources.

The vast majority of the roughly 15 to 20 private wells tested have registered levels above the new EPA advisory level, and more testing is ongoing.

Gonzales once again urged people drawing from private wells to contact the health department for free tests, to determine the PFC levels of their drinking water.

In the meantime, he said the health department is working on ways to remove the chemicals from the water.

"That is our number one priority right now," Gonzales said.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter: @jakobrodgers

Facebook: Jakob Rodgers

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