Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet joined 29 other senators in writing a letter to the Trump administration asking when it will implement a plan to mitigate and restrict the use of chemicals potentially linked to cancer.
It’s an issue that’s been tied to a firefighting foam used by the military and other sources and the perfluorinated chemicals have fouled the Widefield aquifer, south of Colorado Springs. A federal health study is examining the impact of the water contamination in El Paso County.
“As you are aware, communities across the country are struggling to respond to the widespread issue of PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) contamination. The human health risks from this class of chemicals, which include birth defects, various forms of cancer, and immune system dysfunction, are still being examined, and the uncertainty has caused great concern among our constituents,” reads the letter, dated Feb. 14.
PFAS are common in consumer and industrial products, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency has proposed a series of actions, including a national drinking water standard and cleanup guidelines.
More than 12,000 El Paso County water users have been impacted by the chemical, which tainted the Widefield aquifer.
In 2016 the EPA lowered its health advisory levels for the compounds, vastly expanding the number of southern El Paso County residents considered at risk for exposure. A subsequent study tied the contamination to the decades-long use of a firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base.
Water districts in the towns of Security, Widefield and Fountain have either tied into uncontaminated water from Colorado Springs Utilities, or installed filtering systems to eliminate the chemicals.
In the letter, the senators say they believe the agency has not acted quickly enough to make water safe.
“Despite then-Administrator Scott Pruitt committing the EPA to designating these materials as hazardous substances in May 2018, the EPA has not even sent a proposal to the Office of Management & Budget,” they wrote.
The lawmakers are asking for the EPA to prioritize the establishment of a maximum contamination level for drinking water and to allow cost-recovery for cleanup by labeling PFAS as hazardous substances.