The drinking water of tens of thousands of Security, Widefield and Fountain residents was found to be tainted by toxins called perfluorinated compounds, or PFAS in January of 2016. The toxins were traced back to firefighting foam from Peterson Air Force Base.

Now, southern El Paso County residents have been included in national health study on toxic chemicals in drinking water. Meanwhile the EPA struggles to address, regulate and study the toxins--which affect millions of Americans across the county. Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for funding to cleanup and reimburse the affected water utilities. 

On August 22, the Air Force Academy reported that the same toxic chemicals polluting the southern El Paso County aquifer were found in groundwater at the academy. 

Follow the Gazette's full coverage here. 

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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado has joined a growing list of Capitol Hill lawmakers demanding the release of a study that details fresh concerns about toxic chemicals that fouled an aquifer south of Colorado Springs, as well as the drinking water of millions of other Americans. Bennet and a bipartisan group of 10 other senators sent a letter to the heads of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services expressing concern that the EPA appeared to be suppressing the study. Such actions are "unacceptable," says the letter released Tuesday by Bennet, D-Colo. "Given the wide use ... and presence of these chemicals in communities across the U.S.

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It's just a drop in the Pentagon's $716 billion budget, but an amendment proposed by Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet would give a flood of cash to El Paso County water districts battling contamination in the Widefield aquifer. Bennet's amendment would provide as much as $9 million to reimburse water utilities in Security, Widefield and Fountain for what they laid out in 2016 after learning their drinking water contained unsafe levels of perfluorinated chemicals from toxic firefighting foam released by Peterson Air Force Base. "This builds on years of our work with the Air Force to address ... contamination and is long overdue for the local water authorities who worked to provide safe drinking water to Colorado

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For the first time in 2½ years, water drawn from a contaminated aquifer in southern El Paso County soon will be flowing from Fountain residents' taps after being filtered to remove dangerous chemicals. The city plans to start using an Air Force-supplied filter June 18 that can remove perfluorinated compounds - a milestone for the community that comes amid continued distrust after possibly decades of being exposed to toxic chemicals in the Widefield aquifer. A second filter is expected to begin working about a month later, said city Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell. He called the move "huge for Fountain." "It took a lot of work to get to where we are," Mitchell said. "We want to make sure we get it right. And

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The Air Force's problem with contaminated water, which it has been attempting to remedy in southern El Paso County with an unprecedented aid package, could get a lot worse. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recently sought to publish a study revealing how perfluorinated compounds found in military firefighting foam could be nearly six times more toxic than current advisories, Environmental Protection Agency emails show. Two years after the crisis arose, the Air Force has begun paying for cleansing the compounds from water flowing into taps in Security, Widefield and Fountain.

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When Sen. Michael Bennet was home from Washington last week, he checked in with water districts in El Paso County that will benefit from $44 million he got into the federal defense budget to clean up water contamination near military bases and another $10 million to study the related health effects, his office tells Colorado Politics. The senior senator from Denver, a Democrat, visited with the Security. Widefield and Fountain water districts to hear about the progress they're making with the help of federal dollars. Toxic chemicals used in fire-fighting foam used at Peterson Air Force Base were discovered in the Widefield Aquifer two years ago. "Every Coloradan should have access to safe drinking water," the senator said in

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Nearly two years after toxic chemicals from Air Force firefighting foam were found in water drawn from the Widefield aquifer, the military announced a string of measures Wednesday to deliver clean drinking water to residents of southern El Paso County. Under the deal, the Air Force will pay more than $900,000 to procure untainted water and filter water from the aquifer to remove perfluorinated compounds that studies have found were released at Peterson Air Force Base when airmen used the foam, which has since been banned by the military. "As a longtime member of the Front Range, we place an extremely high value on all of our community partnerships, and are pleased we can move forward with these support agreements," Peterson

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Participants are being sought for a first-of-its-kind study in the Pikes Peak region examining the health effects of toxic chemicals in the Widefield aquifer. Two-hundred Security, Widefield and Fountain residents are being recruited for the study, which aims to determine if there's any correlation between the area's tainted drinking water and the health ailments reported by residents. That includes trying to determine how long people were exposed to the toxic chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds, as well as how that might have affected their health.

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A local lawyer says nearly 7,000 clients have joined a suit against the manufacturers of perfluorinated compounds that have contaminated wells for water users in Security, Widefield and Fountain. Mike McDivitt said Thursday that he expects court hearings in July to decide whether the suit against firms including chemical giant 3M will move forward as a class-action. But one thing is already clear: Dozens of claimants who want compensation for sick pets are out of luck. McDivitt said pets are considered property under Colorado law, limiting health-related claims for the animals.

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Unexplained stomach pains tortured Penny Cimino's third-grade son. Then came a noncancerous mass the size of a baseball on her own liver. After dealing with those health concerns, news surfaced of toxic chemicals fouling her drinking water that have been tied to the long-term use of firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base. "We need answers," said Cimino, a Fountain resident of 24 years. A University of Colorado School of Public Health researcher last month submitted a grant application to the National Institutes of Health seeking $275,000 to look for those answers. If approved, it will be the first field study measuring the chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds, in the bloodstreams of Security, Widefield and

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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.

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Despite a new study's conclusion that toxic firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base potentially fouled drinking water in Security, Widefield and Fountain, Air Force officials have no plans to fully reimburse those communities for $6 million they've spent responding to the crisis. More than 70 percent of those checks issued by those water districts to deal with toxic chemicals contaminating the Widefield Aquifer likely will not be reimbursed, Air Force officials signaled last week. And those uncompensated costs are expected to balloon, with the districts likely on the hook for $11 million of their $12.7 million response tab by the end of 2018.

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A community meeting will be held Tuesday on the toxic chemicals fouling a key source of drinking water for Security, Widefield and Fountain. The meeting will coincide with the release that day of Peterson Air Force Base's site inspection report - a much-anticipated internal study detailing contamination linked to a firefighting foam used for decades at the base. It will be from 5-8 p.m. at Janitell Junior High School, 7635 Fountain Mesa Road in Fountain. Representatives from the Air Force, the EPA, state and local health departments and local water systems are expected to be on hand Tuesday to answer residents' questions.

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The first of Fountain's two long-awaited, Air Force-supplied water filters are expected to become operational in about a month, the city's utilities director said Friday. The construction comes as Fountain officials continue grappling with toxic chemicals in the underground waterway that have been linked to a firefighting foam used for decades at nearby Peterson Air Force Base. The chemicals, called perflourinated compounds, have been linked to a host of health ailments, including low birth weight, liver disease and cancer. As a result, water districts in Security, Widefield and Fountain have spent millions of dollars guarding against them. For nearly two years, Fountain has avoided the aquifer in favor of surface

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An Air Force official revealed to the county commissioners on Thursday that the service has a five-year plan to mitigate water contamination that recently had southern El Paso County residents searching for clean water sources after wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain were tainted by perfluorinated compounds from toxic firefighting foam. While Col. Doug Schiess, commander of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, wouldn't elaborate on details of the five-year plan, he said information about an internal Air Force report would be released in late June or early July. The Air Force used firefighting foam at the base for decades that contained perfluorinated compounds.

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Toxic water pumped straight from the fouled Widefield Aquifer no longer flows through taps served by the three largest water districts in the Security, Widefield or Fountain areas, water officials announced Wednesday. The Widefield Water and Sanitation District became the last major water system to stop using well water from the tainted aquifer, according to the district's water manager, Brandon Bernard. As of Nov. 10, all of the district's customers receive cleaner surface water from the Pueblo Reservoir. "We're looking forward to moving forward without having to worry about PFCs," said Bernard, using an acronym for the toxic chemicals. The announcement ends one chapter of a water crisis that sent thousands of

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The Air Force ignored decades of warnings from its own researchers in continuing to use a chemical-laden firefighting foam that is a leading cause of contaminated drinking water for at least 6 million Americans, including thousands of people south of Colorado Springs. - Multiple studies dating back to the 1970s found health risks from the foam, and even an agreement 16 years ago between the Environmental Protection Agency and the foam's main manufacturer to stop making the substance did not curtail the Air Force's usage. Until drinking water tests announced by health officials this year revealed contaminated wells here, the Air Force did almost nothing to publicly acknowledge the danger of the firefighting chemical.

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Several residents in the Security, Widefield and Fountain communities last month sued the manufacturers of a toxic chemical fouling their drinking water - each seeking expensive blood tests for themselves and their neighbors. Now, the attorneys for those residents want the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to create and fund its own blood testing program, and quick. "We think it's a public health problem," said Mike McDivitt, an attorney. The call for a state-run blood testing program comes as the litigants gear up for a lengthy court battle against the companies that made and sold firefighting foam suspected of contaminating the drinking water of thousands of people across southern El Paso County.

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Security's water district has completely switched from contaminated well water to cleaner surface water pumped in from the Pueblo Reservoir, the agency announced Tuesday. The move by Security Water and Sanitation Districts signaled the last time that contaminated water is expected to reach residents' homes, said Roy Heald, the water district's general manager. "We're confident now that we can maintain this, really, until we can get treatment online," Heald said. Security's announcement comes as temperatures cool and the summer watering season comes to a close. Water districts in Security, Widefield and Fountain have traditionally relied largely on surface water pumped into the area from the Pueblo Reservoir

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A Colorado Springs law firm filed the second lawsuit this week targeting the manufacturers of a firefighting foam believed to have contaminated drinking water in Security, Widefield and Fountain. McDivitt Law Firm capped a monthlong campaign to woo clients by filing a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking class-action status on behalf of thousands of people whose tap water comes from the fouled Widefield aquifer. The case largely mirrors another federal class-action lawsuit filed earlier this week by a Denver law firm targeting 3M, Ansul Foam of Wisconsin and National Foam of Pennsylvania. McDivitt's suit also named those companies as defendants, but it added three more: Chemguard of Wisconsin, as well as Angus Fire and

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A Colorado Springs law firm said it is readying a lawsuit targeting the manufacturers of a firefighting foam believed to have contaminated drinking water in Security, Widefield and Fountain. McDivitt Law Firm said it plans to file a lawsuit this week over the fouling of the Widefield Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to thousands of residents in southern El Paso County. McDivitt is partnering with a New York firm, Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC, which has been running television ads in recent months to woo clients. Mike McDivitt, the firm's founder, said about 1,000 people have retained his firm, and many more residents have expressed interest.

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All farming operations - including the watering, harvest, sale and distribution - of Venetucci Farm products have been temporarily suspended amid concerns about its use of contaminated water pulled from the Widefield aquifer. The decision was made "out of an abundance of caution," because the 190-acre urban farm is irrigated solely with water drawn from the fouled waterway, said Gary Butterworth, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation's chief executive. The suspension will remain in effect "until results from water, soil and produce testing are complete," the foundation announced Friday. Left uncertain is the fate of the famed pumpkin harvest, which has attracted thousands of schoolchildren to the farm each year to pick

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The Air Force will supply $108,000 in bottled water to residents whose drinking water has been contaminated with toxic chemicals that may have originated from Peterson Air Force Base. Private well owners and people in several small water systems south of Colorado Springs will be eligible to receive the bottled water, said Steve Brady, a base spokesman. Those places include the Fountain Valley Shopping Center, Security Mobile Home Park and NORAD View Mobile Home Park, according to the installation's news release. "It's in place as an interim solution until they can figure out a long-term solution," Brady said.

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Government agencies are just beginning to scratch the surface of costs incurred by a frustratingly hardy, toxic chemical polluting waterways across the U.S. Air Force officials already expect to spend more than $400 million to study the chemical's use in a firefighting foam at nearly 200 sites and replace it. Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy are on that list. And on a local level, officials for water districts serving Security, Widefield and Fountain say they also may have to pay millions of dollars upgrading their water systems over the next few years to filter it out of tap water. The tabs are expected to grow, and they don't include costs associated with cleanup efforts. In one such project, the Air

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Water districts in Security, Widefield and Fountain have been working to reduce their reliance on the Widefield aquifer until they can effectively remove PFCs from well water. These quickly evolving plans are likely to take years to complete.Here's a rundown of those projects:SHORT-TERMSecurity and Widefield: No construction projects are likely to affect well-water usage by the end of the summer. However, Widefield Water and Sanitation District plans to create a free water-filling station within a month for residents along the western portions of Widefield to get up to 10 gallons a week.

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More than 500 people gathered at Mesa Ridge High School's auditorium on Thursday evening concerned about a toxic chemical in the Widefield aquifer that has left many of them paying bills for tap water that is contaminated. Residents from across Security, Widefield and Fountain flocked to hear more than a dozen federal, state, local and military officials hold a town hall about the work being done to clean the water in the Widefield aquifer. As the evening wore on, one question rose above the rest: Why must residents have to incur more costs for bottled water and home filters because of a problem that wasn't their fault? "Why does the consumer have to pay more?" one man asked, to applause. He received no answer.

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Security, Widefield and Fountain have higher rates of kidney cancer than elsewhere in El Paso County - but Colorado health officials suspect it may be due to smoking and obesity rates in those areas, not necessarily contaminated water. The findings by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment come as military, state and local officials grapple with the presence of toxic chemicals in the aquifer supplying drinking water to those communities. The chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, have garnered increasing scrutiny across the nation amid concerns that they might cause a host of health ailments. They include low birth weight and kidney and testicular cancers.

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The Air Force plans to pay $4.3 million to begin treating water in Security, Widefield and Fountain amid the revelation that toxic chemicals contaminating groundwater for those communities possibly came from Peterson Air Force Base. The Air Force's announcement Tuesday offered a possible stop-gap solution to a problem that local water district managers say may take years to permanently fix, and it comes as residents there flock to purchase bottled water. The chemicals, called perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, "possibly" came from Peterson Air Force Base, where firefighters used a foam rich in those chemicals for decades to put out aircraft fires, said Steve Brady, a spokesman for the base's 21st Space Wing.

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A meeting will be held next week for residents to learn more about toxic chemicals that have contaminated an aquifer beneath Security, Widefield and Fountain at levels exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's recommendations. Representatives from the EPA, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Air Force, El Paso County Public Health and local water systems will discuss drinking water in the area and answer residents' questions, El Paso County Public Health announced. The meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. on July 7 in Mesa Ridge High School's auditorium, 6070 Mesa Ridge Parkway.

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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.

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The majority of private wells tested in the Widefield, Security and Fountain area have tested above new levels announced Thursday for chemicals that may cause low birth weight in children or certain types of cancer. Fourteen of the 17 wells tested so far were above the newly announced levels - leading health officials to say some people who rely on those wells may want to switch to bottled or treated water. Those people include infants, nursing or pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant. In addition, health officials are urging people using private wells that draw from the Widefield aquifer to contact El Paso County Public Health and get their water tested for free.

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Public health officials are urging private well owners in Security, Widefield and Fountain to test their water amid concerns that firefighting and carpet chemicals have contaminated the area's aquifer. A contractor expects to begin testing the wells late next week for perfluorinated compounds - human-made chemicals that could cause several health problems with prolonged exposure. The tests may help pinpoint the source of PFCs that the Environmental Protection Agency said exceeded health advisory levels in several public wells drawing from the Widefield aquifer. The tests also could shed light on PFC levels in homes that draw directly from the Widefield aquifer, which leaves them at increased risk.

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Residents in Security-Widefield who have private wells near Fountain Creek should check their water for excess chemicals, federal officials said Monday. The perfluorinated compounds are commonly found in surface protection products for carpets, but should not be in the local drinking water. The chemicals were found during water quality tests done in January. They don't fall under water quality regulations, but they are on the Environmental Protection Agency's list of things to monitor and keep out of a water supply. Since the amounts of chemicals are trace, the water supply meets the health standards for drinking water, although the effects of consuming the chemicals are largely unknown.

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