EL PASO COUNTY — A southern El Paso County community is looking to secure grant money to tackle a challenge it's facing with contaminated water.
Throughout the last decade, communities in parts of El Paso County have discovered Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances known as PFAs in the water. In 2016, people living in Security-Widefield and Fountain learned the contamination came from firefighting foam from Peterson Air Force Base.
Since the discovery, funding has paid for various water treatment facilities in both Security-Widefield and Fountain.
For one community in southern El Paso County, the PFAs levels have been around for years, but neighbors say there's a renewed concern for the contamination.
“We’ve been flying under the radar," Liz Rosenbaum who cofounded the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition said, "but once the EPA lowers the MCL [Maximum Contamination Levels] standards to 20 or less, we’re going to have several of our PFAS levels exceed that new advisory so that puts into a sort of crisis zone.
Rosenbaum moved to Midway in 2018 but has lived in southern El Paso county for years. The water provider for the area is Wigwam Mutal Water Company.
She recently had water testing done for her home and three others in the neighborhood. The recent tests showed the total number of PFAS were above the 70 parts per trillion currently considered unsafe. There are numerous varieties of PFAs and some of the specific ones tested, it showed numbers in the 20 parts per trillion.
Rosenbaum said those numbers are a concern as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to lower those levels. The testing was conducted through a company called Cyclopure and paid for through the Sierra Club, Rosenbaum said.
“Even though the levels haven’t changed, they’ve been here awhile, it is that the levels are changing according to the EPA,” Rosenbaum said.
For newer residents in the area, like Bria Paisley the latest results were jarring. She and her husband moved to Midway in late 2020.
Paisley uses a filter gifted to her family to fill up her dog's water bowls, when it comes to their drinking water they have several gallon water jugs. When they first moved to the area, they realized the water wasn't what they were used to back home in the midwest.
"It's kind of just like cloudy, it always looks like it has some particles in it," Paisley said, "you can just kind of see when you pour it, that its' just kind of cloudy and definitely not something I would want to drink."
Paisley said she learned about the history of PFAs and the levels in her water at a recent HOA meeting for the Villa Casitas neighborhood. It was there she learned about the potential health impacts which can include birth defects, immune system issues, and even some forms of cancer.
"All of those things were very scary to hear about and then not know more in-depth what the implications of all of that means," Paisley said.
Rosenbaum is working with others to secure grant funding to provide people in the neighborhood with water filters that take about 10 cups of water at a time.
An operator with Wigwam Water said a recent test using the filter showed undetectable levels of PFAs. It's a solution that can work for the short-term, but there are also efforts in the works to secure a type of water treatment facility similar to other communities in the area.
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