Coloradans Fear Firefighting Foam Has Poisoned Water

     (CN) — Residents near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs say fire-suppressing foam manufactured by 3M and two others has poisoned the area’s groundwater.
     Along with 3M, the federal class action filed Sunday in the District of Colorado names The Ansul Company and National Foam, all of which produce aqueous film-forming foam — a firefighting suppressant which was bought by the Air Force and used extensively in the area around the base.
     Neither the Air Force nor the federal government is a party to the class action.
     According to the residents, the foam contains fluorochemical surfactants including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA) and other perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, which are known to be highly water-soluble, mobile, and persistent in the environment.
     Toxicology studies have found that PFCs are readily absorbed by and accumulate in the human body, with multiple associated health risks. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency links exposure to PFOS and PFOA with testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and other conditions.
     The fire suppressant with PFCs was developed in the 1960s to extinguish jet fuel fires, and the military has been purchasing and using the foam since at least 1970.
     But the residents claim that the foam’s manufacturers knew by the 1980s that PFCs were dangerous to human health and the environment. And when 3M announced that it was phasing out PFOS-based foam in 2000, an EPA internal memo stated: “3M data supplied to EPA indicated that these chemicals are very persistent in the environment, have a strong tendency to accumulate in human and animal tissues and could potentially pose a risk to human health and the environment over the long term. [PFOS] appears to combine persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity properties to an extraordinary degree.”
     Despite that PFOS-based foam was no longer being produced by 2002, the residents believe that the base continued to use foam containing PFCs after the manufacturing cut-off.
     And in January 2016, EPA testing data “identified measurable levels of PFOS and PFOA in 94 public water systems across the nation, including three southwest El Paso County systems proximate to Peterson Air Force Base: Security, Wakefield, and Fountain.”
     Meanwhile, the Denver Post reported that “it has reached the point where the water in all 32 of the Security Water and Sanitation District’s municipal wells is contaminated with PFCs at levels exceeding an EPA health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion. At one well, PFCs have hit 1,370 PPT, federal data show — nearly 20 times higher than the EPA health advisory. EPA officials recommended that pregnant women and small children should not drink local water.”
     The residents are suing on behalf of everyone who lives or owns property in four water districts around the base. Their claims include negligence, failure to warn of a defective product, design defects in the foam, and unjust enrichment.
     They seek compensation for the decrease in property value in the affected area and mitigation or remediation costs, as well as the costs incurred in obtaining alternative water. They also request loss-of-use compensation and exemplary damages.
     The parties could not be reached by phone for comment on Tuesday.
     The homeowners are represented by Kevin S. Hannon and Justin D. Blum of the Hannon Law Firm in Denver.

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