Some 150,000 gallons of water contaminated by toxic firefighting chemicals were discharged from a Colorado Air Force Base into a city sewer system, and authorities can't explain why. Peterson Air Force Base has confirmed that water containing perfluorinated chemicals—PFCs—flowed through Colorado Springs Utilities wastewater treatment plant before ending up in Fountain Creek, which leads to the Arkansas River. PFCs, which have been linked to health problems such as liver and kidney damage, had already been found at up to 20 times safe limits in the area south of the base, the Denver Post reports.
A base spokesman tells the Colorado Springs Gazette that the discharge, which was discovered Oct. 12. came from a tank that held outflow from training exercises from as far back as 2013. He says the tank is designed to be difficult to discharge, suggesting the release was an intentional act. The Air Force says it has stopped using firefighting foam containing PFCs, except in emergencies. The Post notes that PFCs have been found at levels deemed dangerous in 63 areas nationwide, with the area south of Colorado Springs among the worst. The Air Force, which has contributed $4.3 million to help area communities deal with the contamination, plans to put out a report on the issue next year. (Read more Colorado stories.)