Bennet Receives Update from Water Districts on Contamination Near Air Force Base

Federal funding Bennet secured enhances cleanup efforts around Peterson Air Force Base

Washington, D.C. – During last week’s state work period, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet met with three water districts in Fountain, Colorado, to receive an update on progress to address water contamination near Peterson Air Force Base. Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals used in firefighting foams, have contaminated drinking water sources near military bases across the country. In the last year, Bennet secured $44 million in additional funding to respond to PFAS contaminated water, as well as additional funding to study PFAS health effects and develop firefighting alternatives.   

“Every Coloradan should have access to safe drinking water,” Bennet said. “The additional funding we secured is a boost for water districts, which now can continue their critical work with the Air Force to treat contaminated water and explore alternative sources. However, there is still more work to be done. We’ll keep pressing this issue in Congress to ensure there is appropriate funding for continued remediation, additional research into the health effects of these chemicals, and development of safe firefighting alternatives.”

Visit with Water Districts

On Wednesday, May 2nd, three water district managers updated Bennet on the PFAS contamination in their region. The managers reported that the funding Bennet secured has expedited the Air Force’s response to contamination, providing resources to collaborate with water districts to rebuild infrastructure and increase access to safe drinking water.

“When Senator Bennet visited we thanked him for his leadership in getting approval for more funding to help pay to restore Security’s groundwater resources, ensuring a clean and safe water supply for our customers,” said Roy Heald, General Manager of Security Water and Sanitation District. “We have seen great strides in the collaboration of the many players in this tough situation, including the Air Force, which is putting the new funding to work quickly and very specifically to meet our needs.”

“We appreciate the time Senator Bennet has spent in understanding the contamination issue and his efforts in Washington that have contributed to the Air Force’s agreement to pay to fast track upgrades to our infrastructure,” said Mike Fink, Water Superintendent of Fountain Water Utility. “The City of Fountain is extremely grateful to all members of our Congressional delegation who have taken an active interest and played a role in helping the local utilities solve this problem.”

“Widefield Water and Sanitation District appreciates Senator Bennet's effort to get additional funding from Congress to help us address the contamination issue,” said Brandon Bernard, Water Department Manager of Widefield Water and Sanitation District. “Now that the Department of Defense will be covering 2018's operational costs, that burden will not be on our ratepayers.  We will continue working with the Department of Defense to connect additional wells to our new treatment plant, as well as finalize a long-term engineering plan to treat the additional water we own but cannot currently use.”

“In talking with the Air Force, my understanding is that $44 million was appropriated, of which about $25 million went to address mitigation measures related to Peterson Air Force Base,” said Tracie White, Federal Facilities Remediation and Restoration Unit Leader of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Because the Air Force had been working collaboratively with the districts and the state, they were prepared to take advantage of the funds over other sites in the country, before the authorization expires at the end of September.”

Legislative Background

In the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Bennet helped secure authorization for a study on the health effects of PFAS and funding for Air Force environmental restoration and remediation. Bennet also supported language that required the Department of Defense (DoD) to report to Congress progress on plans for the development of a firefighting alternative and how DoD could reimburse state or municipal agencies that expended funds to provide alternative water supplies.

In the 2018 omnibus package, Bennet helped secure $10 million for a study on the health effects of PFAS and $44 million in additional funding for Air Force environmental restoration and remediation, as well as a requirement for quarterly reports to Congress on remediation efforts.