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Toxic Spill Alert! US Air Force Base Leaks 'Cancer-Causing' Chemical Into Colorado's Sewer System

Oct 21, 2016 04:13 AM EDT
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The US Air Force said the toxic chemicals which came from Peterson Air Force Base retention tank did not contaminate the drinking water but has somehow found its way into a creek that is used by local farmers. The creek flows south toward Pueblo and into the Arkansas River.
(Photo : Theo Stroomer/Getty Images)

At least 150,000 gallons of toxic contaminated water has been "accidentally" dumped by US air force base into the sewer system of Colorado Springs.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Air Force said the toxic chemicals which came from Peterson Air Force Base retention tank did not contaminate the drinking water but has somehow found its way into a creek that is used by local farmers. The creek flows south toward Pueblo and into the Arkansas River.

"We take this type of event seriously, and will work diligently to determine the cause," Lt. Col. Chad Gemeinhardt, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander said. "We are committed to upholding environmental stewardship policies and procedures."

Read: Toxic Algae Solution? This Startup is Turning Algal Blooms Into Bioplastics

The statement added that the discharge came from Peterson Air Force Base's fire training area retention tank that contained water contaminated by perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs.

Denver Post talked to Pueblo Board of Water Works spokesman Paul Fanning and said Pueblo was unaware until reporters made inquiries Tuesday.

"We don't use any groundwater or surface water from Fountain Creek. We use water from the Arkansas River taken upstream from where Fountain Creek flows in," Fanning said. "But it is not a good thing to have those contaminants anywhere in our water. There are some reported health effects. It is in our interest to protect our public."

PFCs, according to National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are a large group of manufactured compounds that are widely used to make everyday products more resistant to stains, grease, and water. In Colorado's case, the PFCs were used as a component of a fire foam.

Potential health effects of PFCs on humans may include kidney-failure, cancer development, decreased fertility and cognitive function.

In an interview with the Colorado Gazette, Fred Brooks, Peterson's environmental chief, said the holding tank was designed to be difficult to discharge and there's a possibility that the leak was intentional.

Meanwhile, BBC reported that Peterson base is also being investigated as the likely source of PFC contamination found in well water in two other nearby communities.

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