Looking back on four years of efforts
Last updated 10/7/2020 at 11:17am
We have an upcoming meeting this month, after a bit of a hiatus due to COVID restrictions and many other meetings being pushed back, and now resuming with benefits. Usually meetings with the CDPHE (state health department) were done in person or over the phone and now they are all virtual through a very well organized "Zoom" platform with breakout sessions for more in-depth discussions. This last week, the topic was on another PFAS chemical called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) and its use in coal tar sealant, which is used to repair asphalt cracks in roads and parking lots. I think an alternative with a better and slightly higher cost would be to use the same asphalt sealant material to repair the cracks. As we know, we can't go with a cheaper product at the cost to human health because our healthcare costs are astronomical in comparison to using safer products. This meeting was recorded and should be posted soon to the CDPHE website.
Our meeting will be conducted safely in person on Thursday, Oct. 15, 6:30 p.m., at Peaks and Pines (212 W. Illinois Ave., Fountain), with limited seating in the large back room. Molly and Greg Miller and their daughter Cory spent many evenings putting together all of our saved documentation of our coalition, dating back to November 2017, into four giant binders which will be available at our meeting. I met with the Miller family earlier this week to see their amazing work on what our community has done together since our first meeting in my living room trying to figure out what PFCs were and what it meant to our health.
Since then, the PFCs has turned into an accepted and universal term of PFAS: "Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS chemicals have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don't break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects" (https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas ).
We are dealing with one of 4,700 types of PFHxS from toxic firefighting foam, and in the process of protecting our health and drinking water systems, we are also investigating the other chemicals in our state and how to stop the spread into our bodies and the environment.
Here is a small timeline of our progress and activism:
November 2017 to January 2018: What is PFAS and what does it mean to our families; established the name and objective of our community group to be inclusive to all areas affected and decided on a coalition because it means we gather together for a common purpose as an alliance in which relationships and trust are built, a collaborative effort including all stakeholders to work together. Past water contamination only resulted in litigation and not changes to legislation.
January 2018: Requested a RAB (Restorative Action Board) from the US Air Force and was denied through an official letter to our coalition. We are still pursuing this.
February to November 2018: Researching and learning about the missing protections for our drinking water systems and health for our firefighters using the toxic foam.
December 2018 to May 2019: Working with Rep. Tony Exum and Sierra Club to write HB 19-1279 and find additional sponsors. I taught our members how to lobby for legislation, most of us attended the testimony sessions and in the end had the most bi-partisan supported bill that legislative session. We also petitioned the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to hold one of their five listening conferences here in our area, and they did.
June 2019: I traveled to Boston with Fran Silva Blayney and Mark Favors to attend the Second National PFAS Conference where we met other coalition leaders just like us from across the U.S., Australia and even Italy! This led us into a new direction of further prevention in our communities and across the state, finding funding for replacement foams for small fire districts, and pursuing additional health studies.
July 2019 to June 2020: Our 200-person, two-year blood test study revealed we are the most contaminated community for this toxic foam, which then led to another two part ATSDR (Agency for Toxic and Disease Registry) study and the environmental portion is going on now that I recently wrote about in this column.
Our first house bill and community discussions with the scientists and environmentalists with the CDPHE has grown into additional house and senate bills to further protect our health and provide funding: HB20-1119, HB20-1143 and SB20-218. We still have more work to do! As we know, we need a balance between litigation and legislation to protect our working families first, with an equitable solution and regulations for industries. There is a balance, but for far too long a focus on "business profit first" has led to unfair financial burdens to residents and poor health and loss of loved ones of the people left dealing with being contaminated.
July 2020 to present: The state Water Quality Control Commission agrees with residents and the CDPHE to monitor waste water levels of PFAS to determine if there is an industry disposing of PFAS chemicals and that the industries should filter at their sites first. The commissioners even went one step further to say they want to set MCLs (maximum contaminant levels) of the chemicals which we rejoiced in hearing even though at the time it was too much of an ask for us to do at these sessions.
Elections are less than 30 days away and our ballots will be arriving in our mail boxes next week. It is imperative in our community to reflect on our accomplishments together.
FVCWC http://www.facebook.com/fvcwc for updates