Testing shows contaminants have not spread to drinking wells near Air Force Academy

Published: Aug. 22, 2019 at 5:18 PM MDT
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UPDATE 2/25/20:

Residents with private drinking wells southeast of the Air Force Academy can breathe a sigh of relief following recent testing.

There was concern over a couple of dangerous chemicals spreading from the Academy to the wells of nearby residents. The chemicals in question are Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). About 40 private drinking wells in communities south of the Academy were tested for the chemicals back in September and October.

The results came back favorable for the residents. The levels were either well below or in the non-detectable range, according to a release sent out by the Academy on Monday.

“These latest test results show these chemicals have not reached the installation boundary and there has been little to no movement,” said Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander. “That said, we understand the importance of updating our neighbors to ease concerns raised and will continue to share monitoring well results as we get it.”

PFOS and PFOA are part of a family of synthetic fluorinated chemicals called per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances used for many years in industrial and consumer products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, as well as in commercial industry and military firefighting foam.

Firefighting foam containing PFOS and PFOA was used at the Academy from the 1970s until 1990 for firefighter training. After that time, the equipment used to dispense the foam was periodically tested until approximately 2005. The Air Force now uses foam formula that meets military requirements and the goals of the EPA’s 2010/15 PFOS Stewardship Program.

"The results from the Air Force Academy are part of a larger and very dynamic puzzle," Attorney David McDivitt explained. "It's one piece of a large and dynamic puzzle that involves citizens, firefighters, municipalities, local governments, states, and certainly the U.S. government. Along with some of the largest companies in America including the 3M company."

David McDivitt and his law firm are representing similar cases stemming from Fountain, Security and Widefield.

"The news from the United States Air Force Academy is positive for residents who are in the surrounding communities who may not now have any need to participate in that lawsuit because thankfully they don't have the contaminants in their water," McDivitt added. "There are others who remain exposed to this and who need to be very aware of prior exposure to these chemicals."

for more from the McDivitt Law Firm on Colorado water contamination.



The U.S. Air Force Academy announced on Thursday the Air Force will be conducting "expanded Site Inspections" in the coming months to assess potential risk to drinking water wells south of the Academy.

The expanded testing is expected to take place in the Woodmen Valley Area, parts south of the Academy along Woodmen Road and west of I-25. Monument Creek runs through the Academy and into the Woodmen Valley area. 11 News is working to find out more specific details on the possible impacted areas. The Academy did not have more information on who specifically could be impacted.

The U.S. Air Force Academy is reporting Colorado Springs Utilities is not impacted by this. It isn't clear what wells or what specific water districts will be part of the testing.

“We share community concerns about the possible impacts past use of these chemicals may have on human drinking water sources,” said Col. Brian Hartless, 10th Air Base Wing commander in a release. “We will work closely with AFCEC to protect human health and conduct a thorough inspection to ensure safe drinking water.”

PFOS and PFOA are components that were used in firefighting by the Air Force. The Air Force Civil Engineer Center confirmed the groundwater samples from several areas on the Academy were above EPA standards in drinking water tied to past firefighting activities. Colorado Springs Utilities supplies drinking water to the Air Force Academy and has not detected the compounds at its water treatment facilities above the method reporting limit.

"However, because levels above the LHA were found in groundwater on the Academy, drinking water wells south of the base could be impacted," the release from the Academy read.

for more on the Air Force's response to PFOS and PFOA.


Perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, are a group of manmade chemicals used for a wide variety of residential, commercial and industrial purposes including: nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabric and carpet, some food packaging and firefighting foam.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency established health advisory levels in drinking water for two types of PFCs - perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOS and PFOA are classified as emerging contaminants because they do not have established regulatory standards, but evolving science has identified potential risk to humans and regulatory standards are under consideration.

for the entire release sent out by the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Attorneys with McDivitt Law Firm had already been working with clients whose water was originally contaminated in Fountain and Security Widefield. They say they're now investigating the possibility of taking more claims.

"What we are working very hard to establish at McDivitt Law Firm is proving the link between the medical conditions and the chemicals that were in the foam and then establishing that we can hold the manufacturers liable for that," said David McDivitt.