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Over 100 private water wells near Colorado military sites have dangerous PFAS levels, report finds

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Over 100 private water wells near Colorado military sites have dangerous PFAS levels, report finds

Nov 29, 2023 | 4:53 pm ET
By Sara Wilson
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Over 100 private water wells near Colorado military sites have dangerous PFAS levels, report finds
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A sign at the north entrance of Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs for U.S. Space Force, Sept. 26, 2021. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

There are 105 private drinking water wells near Colorado military bases that are contaminated with so-called forever chemicals, but they are not dirty enough for the federal government to provide alternative drinking water to residents, says a advocacy organization.

There are 101 wells near Peterson Space Force Base and four near Schriever Space Force Base in Colorado Springs that have dangerous levels of a group of chemicals known as PFAS, according to a report from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.

The report identified 63 military bases in 29 states where 2,805 drinking water wells had PFAS contamination. Colorado had the fifth-most contaminated wells, according to the report.

PFAS were developed to protect household items, such as nonstick cookware and outdoor furniture, from staining and corrosion, and are also found in fire fighting foams. They are dubbed “forever chemicals” because they do not degrade naturally and can linger in the environment and in water supplies. The Department of Defense is a major contributor to PFAS pollution across the country, partly because of its use of those foams and other industrial solvents.

The report found that the 105 Colorado wells have PFAS levels above 4 parts per trillion but below 70 parts per trillion, which is the level that triggers action from the Department of Defense. That means the water is contaminated at a level experts deem dangerous, but there will not be any remediation.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a national, legally enforceable level of PFAS at 4 ppt.

Researchers were not able to determine how many people in Colorado rely on the contaminated wells for drinking, cooking and bathing. PFAS has been linked to health problems such as some types of cancer, reduced birth rates and thyroid dysfunction.

A Defense representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The department maintains a website devoted to its goals related to PFAS cleanup and inspections at the nearly 700 sites where PFAS might have been released.

People who live near a military outpost and use a well for water can have their water tested and use a filter designed to remove PFAS from the supply.