Bennet Statement on Inclusion of El Paso County in Nationwide Water Contamination Study

Following Bennet Request, Community Near Peterson AFB to be One of Eight Sites in Assessment of PFAS Exposure

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today issued the following statement after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced that El Paso County will be included in a national study to examine the health effects of exposure to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), chemicals that have contaminated drinking water sources in Colorado and across the country. Last year, Bennet sent a letter to the ATSDR and the Department of Defense urging the agencies to include communities near Peterson Air Force Base that are affected by water contamination in the study.

“Colorado families deserve peace of mind knowing that the water they drink is safe for them and their children,” Bennet said. “The prevalence of PFAS in water near Peterson Air Force Base is alarming. This study is a critical step toward understanding the effects of exposure on human health, and I’m pleased that my request to include the affected communities in El Paso County was heard. I will continue to press for action, accountability, and transparency to ensure drinking water is safe.”

Following the discovery of PFAS contamination in the Widefield Aquifer, which serves multiple communities near Peterson AFB, the Air Force conducted a study in 2017 which found that firefighting foam used at the base contaminated water and soil at levels more than 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s lifetime health advisory limit.

Last week, Bennet criticized the EPA’s long-awaited action plan to address PFAS which fell short of establishing enforceable drinking water standards and failed to set clear guidelines for cleanup and remediation, among other concerns.  

For years Bennet has worked to address the health effects, cleanup, and reimbursement issues associated with PFAS contamination in El Paso County.

In 2017:

  • Bennet pushed for a nationwide study on the health effects of PFAS and for additional funding for remediation and clean up.
  • Bennet secured $10 million for the nationwide Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study in the 2018 omnibus package.
  • Bennet secured an additional $44 million in funding for Air Force environmental restoration and remediation in the 2018 omnibus package. A significant amount of that funding was used for remediation around Peterson AFB in Colorado.
  • Bennet supported a provision in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required a plan on how the Department of Defense might reimburse state or municipal agencies that expended funds to provide alternative water supplies.

In 2018:

  • Bennet wrote to the CDC to ask that the nationwide study include communities in Colorado near Peterson AFB.
  • Bennet visited communities around Peterson Air Force Base to receive an update on remediation efforts. There, Bennet also received an update on the challenges water districts are having receiving reimbursement for steps they took to clean up drinking water.
  • Bennet demanded the Trump administration (CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) release the results of a study regarding what levels of certain chemicals are safe in drinking water. According to news reports at the time, the EPA had been working to block the release of results from a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study on the toxicity of certain PFAS.
  • Bennet passed an amendment to provide funding for the Department of Defense to reimburse state and municipal water authorities for actions they took to clean up and mitigate PFAS in drinking water. The amendment was included in the Department of Defense-Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations bill, which passed the Senate in 2018. The provision was not included in the final version of the bill that was signed into law.
  • Bennet wrote to the CDC/ASTDR to voice disappointment that the CDC will not include military and civilian firefighters in its investigations of the human health effects of  PFAS contamination pursuant to Section 316 of the FY19 NDAA.