Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

QUESTIONS about the STUDY

What is the goal of the study?

Our first goal is to evaluate the extent of the water contamination issue in and around the Widefield aquifer. We hope to learn precisely where the underground plume is located, where it’s heading, and who is affected. We hope to obtain data by monitoring public and private wells every 6 months for the next 3 years.

Who are we?

As we mentioned above, we are a local non-profit, non-partisan research group invested in sharing critical water quality information with the Fountain Valley community. While we welcome collaboration from others, right now our research group consists primarily of students, staff and faculty at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

Why study the water issue in this way?

A citizen-science project like this one has multiple goals. Our first goal is to understand more about the problem. A second goal is to make more information available to the public, and help them understand the issues surrounding the contamination. We hope to give those who participate the opportunity to learn more about the issue by participating in the research themselves, and hopefully our study can contribute to the community’s well being by directly addressing community concerns and filling in any knowledge gaps.

Why are you contacting me?

We are attempting to contact every household that draws water from an active well located within one kilometer of the Widefield aquifer. We accessed the precise location of the wells from public records provided by the state of Colorado, and we are now contacting those who might be using the wells to request their participation in the study.

When will this study take place?

This study will begin in Summer 2018, and your inclusion in the study can begin once we receive your intent to participate by postcard. From there, we will send you a test kit. Simply fill out the questionnaire, follow the instructions to collect the sample, and send it back to our lab for testing.

How much does it cost to participate?

Your participation is completely free. If you opt in, we’ll mail you a kit every 6 months with detailed instructions and prepaid postage for returning your sample which we will then test in our labs.

What are the eligibly requirements to participate in the study?

Participants must:

– Be 18 years of age.
– Get their water from a private well, within 1 km of the Widefield aquifer.

What happens to the information you gather about my water?

Data we collect will be used to answer basic questions about the spread of the contamination and what can be done about it. All individualized or personal information is kept completely confidential, and participants can opt out at any time.

If I decide to opt out, how do I do it?

To opt out simply contact us at fountainvalleywaterstudy@gmail.com and we can remove you from the study.

What do I get in return for help?

In addition to helping us all understand more about our community’s water resources, we will send each participant a personalized letter every six months with the results of the analyses, what they mean, and how the data fits into the broader context of the water contamination issue.

How do I get involved?

Fill out the attached survey, drop it in the mail, and wait for us to contact you!

I have a friend who is also a private well owner and is interested in participating. Can I get them involved?

Absolutely. It is difficult to contact every person who could be affected, and we are actively looking for additional participants. Please ask them to contact us at fountainvalleywaterproject@gmail.com

What is in the testing kit?

The sample testing kit will be sent in a cardboard box with instructions and a Ziploc bag that contains a vial. Simply follow the instructions to collect the sample and mail the kit to the address attached on the instructions.

How will the samples be analyzed?

The research will take place in two laboratories. Sample preparation will take place in the Colorado College chemistry lab. The actual analysis of the sample will take place at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS). At UCCS we have an instrument called a high pressure liquid chromatography triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (LC-MS/MS) or a “triple quad”. This instrument is capable of measuring very small quantities within water, in this case it will measure sub parts per trillion (ppt).

When this study is complete, will there be other ways to get involved?

Yes. We will have an interactive website, and upcoming collaborations with other departments to spread information.

BACKGROUND to the CONTAMINATION QUESTIONS (How did this happen)

I own a private well, how did PFASs get into my water?

Private well owners get their water from the ground, and in our case, we get our groundwater from the Widefield aquifer. PFASs are mobile in water and soil, and the chemicals moved from the source of the exposure, into the soil, and then into the aquifer.

Where did these chemicals in our groundwater come from?

No one can say for sure, but there is a very strong likelihood that the contamination came from fire-fighting foams used on Petersen Air Force Base. These foams, known as AFFFs (Aqueous Film-Forming Foams) are manmade substances that consist of fluorine molecules bonded to hydrocarbons. These foams are extremely effective in suppressing very hot fires, but have recently been linked to human health problems arising from PFAS chemicals in drinking water. Many military installations conducted regular testing with these foams before they were known to be harmful to human health.

Do other organizations use AFFFs?

Yes. These foams are used by public and private firefighting units, in industrial applications, and they have been used extensively on military bases both in the United States and abroad. In Colorado Springs AFFFs have been used at the United States Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, and Peterson Air Force Base.

Do PFASs come from nature?

No. PFASs are man-made substances that have been in use since the 1950s.

Where do we find PFASs?

PFASs also are found in the following items: food packaging, textiles, power plants, photography, metal plating, paints, hydraulic fluids, and electronics.

I’ve seen a lot of acronyms, what is the difference between PFCs, PFASs, PFOAs, PFOSs, and PFAAs?

The acronym PFC stands for perflourinated compounds (or chemicals). PFCs are any compound that contains hydrocarbons bonded with fluorine atoms. More recently, many have been referring to PFCs as PFASs (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) because that term encompasses the entire class of chemicals that are of concern. PFOS, PFOA, and GenX are individual PFASs that are common and commercially-produced. PFAAs are a subgroup of PFASs because PFAAs are perfluoroalkyl acids (perfluoroalkyl acids contain a hydrogen atom that is attached to an electronegative atom).

QUESTIONS about PFAS’s effects on HUMAN HEALTH

How do PFASs enter my system?

PFASs have many ways of entering the body. The most common way is consumption.

Are PFASs stationary or do they move?

They do move. Currently there is research being done on the transport properties of these compounds. There is some research that links chain length to filtration, however more research is being done to back up the hypothesis.

What are potential health effects from consuming these compounds?

Consumption of these compounds have been linked to:
– Cancer, specifically kidney and testicular
– Cholesterol, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and ulcerative colitis

What are other ways that I can get rid of these compounds in my body?

Most of these compounds once they enter the bloodstream remain in the body for days and sometimes even years. These compounds to exit the body is through urine.

POLICY and RESPONSE QUESTIONS

What is the benchmark amount of PFAS in water that is considered safe?

The real answer to this question is that we don’t yet know. A second answer is that very few government officials want to define just what exactly is “safe.” What we do know is that the chemicals are of concern, and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently lowered their health recommendation to 70 parts per trillion as the benchmark. It should be noted that out of the 3000 known PFAS compounds PFOA and PFOS are the only chemicals being studied. The EPA’s benchmark of 70 ppt is the combined total amount of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.

What is already being done?

Currently there are filters in all three water districts: Fountain, Security, and Widefield.

What is the difference between a health advisory limit and a regulatory health limit?

A health advisory limit is a recommendation determined by the EPA of how much of a chemical is able to be consumed before being dangerous. A regulatory limit is determined by the state and is regulated by the state.

Our area currently uses a filtration system. Is our water still contaminated by these compounds?

There is a possibility. Our study aims to sample private wells; however also to sample water from the city to understand the efficiency of these filtration systems.