“As Environmental Protection Agency investigators turn their attention to Colorado and its perfluorinated chemicals that won’t go away, they face demands to determine how much of an infinitesimally tiny amount is too much.
At the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment — where state officials have begun making a list of sites where perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, may have been spilled — agency chiefs say they will enforce any limit the EPA sets.
At a north metro Denver water supply plant, systems manager Kipp Scott focuses on 70 parts per trillion (ppt), a nonbinding health advisory target, as he dilutes and filters supplies for 50,000 residents following last month’s discovery that municipal wells are contaminated. ‘Our finished water now is around 27 ppt,’ he said, ‘… after shutting off the wells.’
And in the contaminated Fountain Creek watershed south of Colorado Springs, residents awaiting an EPA visit next week — on the fourth stop of a five-site national tour — advocate a national limit of 1 ppt — at least until federal scientists can prove higher levels to be safe…
‘You can’t go back and undo what’s already been done, but we need to fix what we can now,’ King said. ‘Our soil is contaminated. Our water is contaminated. We don’t know how long it will be before that water is usable again. … Let’s find out what PFCs are doing to our bodies.’ …
There is no regulatory limit despite revelations two years ago that PFCs had contaminated groundwater and more than 100 public drinking water systems in 33 states, mostly at sites near military air bases. Michigan leaders last week declared a state of emergency after tests confirmed PFCs have contaminated municipal water at up to 1,410 ppt in Parchment, near Kalamazoo.
Chemical companies have produced more than 3,000 types of PFCs (also called perfluorinated alkylates, or PFAS). EPA officials are considering a possible limit for only two types (PFOA and PFOS) as part of a national action plan they’ve promised to unveil this fall. Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt held a summit, before his resignation amid corruption probes, and declared safe water a top priority.
EPA officials this week declined to discuss their emerging approach but, in emailed responses to emailed queries, acknowledged challenges the nation will face…
‘Once PFAS contamination is found, determining the extent of contamination and solutions if drinking water is impacted is also challenging, and each site is a little different. As more sites are found, more pressure is put on limited state and federal resources.’
In Colorado, PFCs contamination showed up most recently last month in South Adams County Water and Sanitation District wells that supplied raw water for 50,000 residents across 65 square miles of north metro Denver. The levels reached as high as 2,280 ppt, 32 times higher than the 70 ppt health advisory level.
Earlier this summer, Sugarloaf fire district officials west of Boulder revealed contamination of groundwater, likely from use of firefighting foam containing PFCs, and alerted surrounding homeowners who rely on wells. Before that, municipal utility well tests revealed heavy contamination of groundwater near the U.S. Air Force’s Peterson Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs — threatening more than 65,000 residents who live in the area.
The full extent of PFCs contamination statewide is unknown. CDPHE officials do not routinely test groundwater.
‘A final inventory of the facilities with high potential for PFC releases will be made available to the public,’ CDPHE environmental programs director Martha Rudolph said this week in response to Denver Post queries.
‘Preparing a statewide inventory will help us focus on those areas where PFC releases may be impacting groundwater that is used for drinking water,’ Rudolph said. ‘An additional purpose of this effort is to help us understand the scope of PFAS issues across the state, to better inform our regulatory approach to PFAS moving forward.’
Some states have set or are considering state-level regulatory limits — as low as 1 ppt in Vermont. Legislation in New York would ban PFCs. Colorado health officials have not set a statewide regulatory limit. The CDPHE set a limit of 70 ppt that applies only to the area south of Colorado Springs in southern El Paso County, including the cities of Security, Fountain and Widefield.”
Read the full article by Bruce Finley