Fountain’s Pollution Problem
There isn’t a definitive reason for the water crisis that has recently struck Fountain, Colorado, but there’s plenty of finger pointing from all parties involved, such as health departments, local military, utility companies, and even city officials themselves refuse to take responsibility. Although these officials have taken precautionary measures to mitigate damage to human life, such as shutting off seven city water valves, there still isn’t enough action being taken to directly affect the local citizens of Fountain and the Security-Widefield areas. Residents of these small communities are sometimes left to fend for themselves when it comes to providing water for their families, and none of the potential culprits have offered to step into their leadership roles and provide locals with our most important nutrient–water. Although this discussion will focus on the leakage of PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) in Fountain’s water sources, it’s also important to mention the chemicals that are added into water supplies across the country that are not accidental. Instead, they’re intentionally added to our water. We’re given mediocre explanations for their inclusion.
In recent months, many toxic chemicals have been found in Fountain’s water sources, including dangerously high levels of synthetic PFCs, more notably PFOA (perfluoroctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluoroctane sulfonic acid). These chemicals have been investigated by the European Union as well as the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and they have been proven through various lab and animal tests to induce severe reactions on the human body. Some reactions include various forms of cancer, liver damage, sudden changes in cholesterol. The chemicals are especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children. Although the use of PFCs can be practical, such as in cookware, furniture, carpet, and aerospace industry equipment, there’s no reason that chemicals found on planes should be found in Fountain’s water supply. The fact that these chemicals are completely unregulated but have severe health affects is unacceptable.
Here’s the biggest problem–once these chemicals have entered into our environment, they’re virtually impossible to remove. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, PFCs are “A family of manmade chemicals that have been used for decades as an ingredient to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water and are extremely resistant to breakdown in the environment.” Essentially, the people of the Fountain and Security-Widefield areas may be dealing with these dangerous contaminants for many years to come with no relief in sight.
It may sound like a conspiratorial headline: “Citizens Being Poisoned by Local Military Bases.” Nevertheless, fact is stranger than fiction, and this isn’t a conspiracy. Perhaps the most profound evidence of all is that these PFCs are found in firefighting foam, which has the Peterson Air Force Base airfield at the forefront of the controversy. Many planes have recently flown missions combating local wildfires, as well as fires across the western United States. Once those planes return, they inevitably leave residue from dumping these chemicals on fires. These toxins may also leak out of the plane. Needless to say, for Fountain, these chemicals have proven more harmful than helpful. In fact, Air Force spokesmen have publicly admitted that these unregulated PFC chemicals found in the local water supply are also found in the firefighting foam used in their planes. Yet in the same sentence, the Air Force will deny any involvement until further investigations are completed. Presumably, they don’t want to accept any responsibility and utilize resources that aren’t directly affecting the Air Force’s best interests until their culpability is proven without a doubt.
While Fountain struggles to obtain clean and safe drinking water, other cities across America have encountered many of the same problems with different chemicals in their water. Issues involving city drinking water are almost never talked about because many assume that since all water is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, all water must be the same. However, not all water is created equal. For instance, the most readily available water we have through our tap water has a host of chemicals added in order to treat the water. Many of these chemicals are used for keeping bacteria and other harmful organisms from colonizing the water and entering into our bodies, but those same chemicals have the potential to be just as, if not more, dangerous than PFCs.
It’s disheartening to know that chemicals such as lead, chlorine, pharmaceutical drugs, and fluoride can all be found in our water systems. However, unlike the events in Fountain, these chemicals didn’t “leak” into our water supply and are certainly not found naturally. Instead, they are intentionally inserted into our water and then masked with explanations such as “fluoride keeps your teeth healthy.” In reality, these chemicals do more harm than good. For example, contrary to what many people have heard over the years, fluoride does the opposite of what’s been advertised. Known as fluorosis, fluoride is linked to tooth decay, loss of teeth, and discoloration of teeth, and these are some of the more minor symptoms compared to more severe effects like cancer, dementia, and even death. Of course, the amount needed to cause these more severe effects would require more than you would get out of a single brushing of your teeth, but there’s a reason your toothpaste tube tells you to contact a poison control center if you consume more than the recommended “pea size.” Add in the water we drink, used for cooking and showering with, and suddenly the amount of fluoride we consume isn’t so innocent and harmless. Dr. E.H. Bronner, a well known chemist and nephew of Albert Einstein, said in a Catholic Mirror letter, “Even in small quantities, sodium fluoride is a deadly poison to which no effective antidote has been found. Every exterminator knows that it is the most efficient rat-killer.” Bronner concludes by firmly stating that fluoride is much more harmful than what has been advertised.
Perhaps the most sensible step is to implement regulations on these toxic chemicals and create contingencies in case of a leak or spill. Just like many other harmful chemicals, there are ways to encourage safe handling and guidelines for usage. For example, in the instance of an oil spill on the ocean, certain contingencies minimize damage to the surrounding areas and marine life. Effective measures such as cordons, clean-up crews, and community centers all work together to contend with the affected areas. Much like an oil spill, there should be steps put in place to prevent other catastrophes like the one that’s taken place in Fountain because unlike oil spills, these PFCs are not as simple to contain, clean, and remove.
In short, Fountain and the Security-Widefield’s water sources have been contaminated with very toxic chemicals that have made local and national headlines, yet those communities have received very little help from various agencies. Other city water supplies across the U.S. are also being contaminated with chemicals that aren’t making news because we’ve been told that they’re to our benefit. Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for chemicals to leak into our water sources before we become concerned about our water. Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s time we find out what’s being put into the drinking water that we consume and bathe in every day, and it’s time that we make a critical and conscious effort to truly benefit our health and the health of future generations. In the words of Dr. Robert Carlton, former EPA scientist, “Flouridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century.” It’s up to us to heed Dr. Carlton’s warning and not turn a blind eye. Our lives and the lives of our children may depend on it.
Carlos Amaya is currently pursuing his education at Pikes Peak Community College after spending six years in the U.S. Air Force. He hopes to one day be a firefighter and continue to help his community. He loves the outdoors, which is why he currently resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado.