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Local group concerned after new water contamination report

Posted: 11:14 PM, Jun 21, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-22 01:14:23-04

A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is causing more water concerns for the Fountain, Security-Widefield area.

The report, released Wednesday, shows perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) may be harmful to people at lower levels than previously thought. The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition held a meeting Thursday discussing the details.

Liz Rosenbaum, founder of the coalition, said the report validates her group’s efforts over the last two years to raise public awareness on the issue.

"Our entire aquifer is destroyed, and if we were to have any more water contamination in any of the surrounding communities, we’re out of drinking water," Rosenbaum said.

The meeting came a day after the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry (ATSDR) released an 852-page report with new information on the contaminants.

Efforts by the U.S. Air Force and Fountain Utilities in recent months have led to the installation of a new filtration system, allowing groundwater back into the city’s drinking water system, after the air force admitted fault in contaminating the water with firefighting foam . The change came after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established an advisory level for the PFCs at 70 parts per trillion in 2016.

The report suggests health issues like an increased chance of getting cancer, liver damage, an increased risk for asthma and a decrease in fertility could happen at levels lower than that. For context, 70 parts per trillion is equivalent to a grain of sand in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Group member Susan Gordon said that’s where the concern lies.

"They’ve just been looking at getting levels below 70 parts per trillion," Gordon said. "Now, this study just brings that standard into question."

Rosenbaum said the report also calls into question what level is safe for people to consume the water.

"Now this report came out and said it said it needs to be less than 10 [parts per trillion]," Rosenbaum said. "And we want it less than 10."

A regional ATSDR employee was already scheduled to talk at Thursday’s meeting. He offered insight on the report, calling the Fountain, Security-Widefield area "Ground Zero" for this research, but the confusion and safety concerns for future generations continue.

"For a water district to just say the water is safe, we want them to define the parameters of what safe is," Rosenbaum said. "And we think that’s more than fair for them to do that."

The new filtration system in Fountain was questioned several times in the meeting too, as to whether or not it’s safe for consumption.

Fountain Utilities Director Curtis Mitchell told News 5 that testing of the carbon filter system yielded treated water with non-detectable levels of PFCs. Essentially, that means the PFC level was around 2.5 parts per trillion.

When asked if he would drink that water, the ATSDR employee said he would.