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Air Force, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment collaborate to protect drinking water sources

BUCKLEY Air Force Base, Colo. --

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) are working together to develop a plan to sample off-base drinking water sources near Buckley Air Force Base for potential contamination from past fire-fighting activities at the installation.

The Air Force will sample wells within one mile north and west of Buckley AFB beginning February 18. The Air Force and CDPHE worked together to identify wells to be sampled, and well owners will be notified. Well-owners who want to determine if their wells are in the sample area can contact the Air Force at 720-847-9226, email 460sw.pa.wf@us.af.mil.

The sampling is part of the Air Force’s proactive, service-wide investigation to assess potential risk to drinking water from Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS). The compounds are components of foam that was used by emergency fire response teams at commercial airports, Air Force installations and other services to combat petroleum-based fires (also known as Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Lifetime Health Advisory for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water in 2016.

As part of the Air Force’s three-step approach — identify, respond, protect — AFCEC completed a preliminary assessment in August, 2015 that identified potential release areas where AFFF may have been used at Buckley. Although the Air Force then completed a site inspection and issued a report in April, 2019 showing no on-base drinking water sources are impacted by the contaminants, it is conducting off-base sampling as another proactive measure to ensure drinking water sources are protected.

“We live in the communities we serve; and we share concerns about the possible impact of our firefighting mission,” said Jeffrey Domm, director of AFCEC’s Environmental directorate. “We are taking aggressive action to assess the potential for PFOS/PFOA contamination of human drinking water and respond appropriately.”

The Air Force and CDPHE are collaborating on the response to PFOS/PFOA across the state. "The Air Force and CDPHE are continuing to partner in a proactive and collaborative approach to identifying and responding to these issues and concerns at Air Force installations across Colorado", said Tracie White, the Remediation Program Manager with CDPHE.

The Air Force site inspection confirms if releases occurred and identifies human drinking water sources that may be impacted. The Air Force is focused on ensuring no drinking water sources contain PFOS/PFOA at levels above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory limit. If the Air Force determines human drinking water sources contain PFOS/PFOA at levels above the EPA lifetime health advisory level, it will take immediate measures to provide bottled water or other alternative sources and work with well owners and regulators to determine a permanent solution. 

The Air Force has replaced legacy firefighting foam in Buckley emergency response vehicles with a new, more environmentally responsible formula that contains no PFOS and only trace amounts of PFOA. Additionally, the Air Force changed its emergency training and response procedures to reduce the risk of contamination from mission activities.

For more information on the Air Force response or additional information on the Air Force’s response to PFOS and PFOA please visit http://www.afcec.af.mil/WhatWeDo/Environment/Perfluorinated-Compounds/ or contact Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Public Affairs at 1-866-725-7617 or email afimsc.pa.workflow@us.af.mil.

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