Working to Protect Your Water Sources
Last updated 3/18/2020 at 4pm
By Senator Dennis Hisey (R-Fountain)
and Representative Lois Landgraf (R-Fountain)
Since the Environmental Protection Agency’s changes in standards in 2016 – our constituents have become some of the most knowledgeable in the country on PFAS contamination issues. As legislators – and as residents of the communities affected – it is always a top priority to ensure our constituents have access to clean water.
In 2019, we worked to pass House Bill 19-1279, enacting strict regulations for the usage of firefighting foam that contains PFAS in an effort to stop the source of contamination. We worked with Colorado Springs Airport, the United States Air Force, and other stakeholders to ensure that PFAS-containing firefighting foam would only be deployed during actual emergencies, not training activities, and ensured that PFAS usage was properly monitored, mitigated, and reported.
It passed the House and Senate with a cumulative vote of 98 to 1 – evidence of our work to bring stakeholders together to find a solution.
Rest assured, today our water remains safe and clean. New water sources are being utilized and state of the art treatment plants have been constructed.
Lucas Hale, District Manager of Widefield Water and Sanitation, stated that, “We recognize that our success was due to the collaborative effort of our community alongside strong, dedicated elected officials. Together, we were able to overcome the situation we were faced with and are providing clean, treated water to our customers because of that support.”
Wigwam Mutual Water District, another local water utility, measures PFAS at 9.2 parts per trillion (ppt), far below the EPA’s advisory level recommendation of less than 70 ppt, and reports the ppt level is dropping over time.
As for cost, we should point out the Air Force – via an agreement with the Colorado Springs Airport – is responsible for firefighting at our airport. Because of this, the Air Force is covering the bulk of the cost for PFAS contamination clean-up efforts, which is why you haven’t seen significant spikes in your water bill despite large investments in filtering technology. We thank the Air Force for partnering with our water districts to bring these changes on line.
This brings us to House Bill 20-1119, the bill we have introduced to further clarify rules and regulations surrounding PFAS and its proper usage. After the passage of HB19-1279 last year, we were informed by a major airline operating out of Denver International Airport that PFAS-containing firefighting foam was utilized in the fire suppression system of their hangar. This usage was not allowed by HB19-1279, and this posed a problem when fighting a potentially life-threatening fire within the hangar. So, we went back to work and crafted legislation to ensure that this airline – and any other airline – could utilize this firefighting foam in a maintenance hangar if certain guidelines are met, such as preventing the foam from leaving the building and being properly disposed of after the incident. This exemption is set to expire after two years – an agreement reached with the airline based on their plans to find a suitable alternative within that time frame.
Tough situations such as these test our communities, and thus far, our region has pulled together to quickly and effectively deploy solutions that ensure that delivery of clean water is not interrupted. We are proud to continue working with all stakeholders – and with you – to ensure that these efforts continue. It is very important that the people in this state have good clean water to drink. It is also important that they receive the truth about their water. These issues should be factual, not political.