Drinking water and chemicals from toxic firefighting foam and other sources

 
PFAS chemicals can enter drinking water in many different ways. For example, some industrial sites discharge PFAS in their wastewater which ulitmately goes into local waterways. At landfills, water can seep through trash and carry PFAS chemicals to groundwater.
 
In Colorado, we are especially concerned about contamination of drinking water from certain types of toxic firefighting foam that contain PFAS. These toxic foams are primarily used for high-heat fires such as gas, oil, or alcohol-related fires. If the toxic foam is left on the ground, it can leach through soil or run off into bodies of water. Most early discoveries of contaminated drinking water in Colorado were associated with these toxic foams.
 
PFAS chemicals can accumulate in the body and remain there for years, which may affect health. To protect public health, the department is taking action to reduce exposure to these chemicals.
  • Your health: learn more about health impacts and these chemicals.
  • Toxic firefighting foam: learn more about how the state is reducing exposure to these chemicals in toxic firefighting foam.
  • Fact sheet about PFAS in water: learn more about these chemicals in your water (well water or publically-served water) and other potential water uses (showering, laundry use, cooking, pet consumption, etc). 
  • In-home treatment: how to remove these chemicals from tap water.
 
What Colorado is doing about water that contains PFAS chemicals
The department’s priorities, as outlined in the state’s Action Plan, are to work with communities to protect drinking water, minimize future contamination, and, when possible, ensure existing contamination is cleaned up. Explore some of the state’s actions and efforts using the links below. 
  • Action Plan: state’s action plan on breaking the chain of exposure.
  • 2020 Sampling Project: an initiative to help public water systems and private well owners with free sample services.
  • Toxic foam survey results: a survey of fire stations to better understand where toxic firefighting foam has been deployed and where it is stored today. 
  • Narrative Policy: implementing Colorado’s existing narrative provisions to protect public health.
 
Well water safety and testing for PFAS chemicals
If you use a well for drinking or for gardening, we recommend testing your well water for PFAS chemicals. You can find labs through a couple of resources: an EPA list of labs who could test for PFAS back in 2013 through 2015 and labs certified by the Department of Defense.  Once on the Department of Defense webpage, in the method drop down, select “PFAS by LCMSMS Compliant with Table B-15 of QSM 5.1 or Latest Version and it will give you a list of all the labs in the country who can test for PFAS. Please note the number of labs who can test for PFAS changes regularly so these resources may not be the most current. 

Tell the lab you want to test your drinking water for PFAS. We recommend considering how many PFAS chemicals the lab can test for and test as many PFAS contaminants as the lab offers. A test usually costs between $300 to $500. After receiving results, homeowners should check that combined PFOA and PFOS results are below 70 parts per trillion. If your drinking water is contaminated, you should make sure that it is properly treated or find another source such as bottled water. Homeowners can contact the CDPHE toxicology hotline for help interpreting their lab results: CDPHE_Toxcall@state.co.us or 303-692-2606.