Mayor Ortega Visits Washington D.C.

Mayor Ortega Visits Washington D.C.
Posted on 11/02/2017

As you know the City of Fountain has been dealing with a water contamination issue for over a year now. I want to first and foremost ensure to you that Fountain is currently providing water to its customers that is safe. While we have detected some of the contaminants in our groundwater, we have been very fortunate that we haven’t used any groundwater for over two years.  I also want you to be assured that we the City Council as well as City Staff have been working tirelessly to ensure we are in constant coordination with all parties involved. Please understand there are a lot of moving parts in regards to this issue and this isn’t a challenge that is going to be solved in the short term.  We will do our best to provide you with the most accurate information each step of the way. There has been a lot of misinformation out there so if you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to call and ask questions.  Our website, www.fountaincolorado.org will also have the most up-to-date information in regards to this issue as we move forward.

With that, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide everyone an update on where we are at with the Air Force and our Congressional leadership concerning the Issue of Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) in our ground water.  As many of you know, the City has worked diligently over the past nearly two years to ensure that Fountain residents have safe, reliable drinking water for their homes and business.  Since October of 2015, Fountain has depended on 100% of its drinking water from the Pueblo Reservoir, where no PFCs have been detected.  Our water today is safe to drink, and we are making every effort to ensure we have plenty of fresh, potable water to meet our future needs.  That said, I wanted to let you know what we have done in the past few weeks to address our contaminated water sources, and update you our path forward.

Last week, with very helpful assistance and many thanks to Congressman Doug Lamborn and his staff, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with a key senior official from the Department of the Air Force, as well as participate in discussions with congressional staff members from Congressman Lamborn’s office as well as those of Senators Gardner and Bennet.  I was part of a delegation from our broader Fountain Valley community, joined by City of Fountain Staff and our neighbors in Security and Widefield.  We travelled to Washington to ensure that both the Air Force and our Congressional leadership were very clear on the challenges we face regarding this issue with PFCs, as well as to personally convey our desire to work together with them to provide solutions for our communities, and ease the significant financial burden this contamination has imposed on our water utilities.  I think our meetings were very productive.  Our discussions at the both the Pentagon and at Capitol Hill focused on our need for more financial assistance, improved transparency, better communication, and on developing written agreements on how we will work together into the future on mitigating the effects of PFCs in our water supply.  We found the Air Force both receptive and willing to explore ways to help, and our Congressional leadership engaged, supportive and also looking for solutions. 

Immediately upon our return, we were further visited by a delegation from Peterson Air Force Base, led by Colonel Eric Dorminey, Vice-Commander of the 21st Space Wing, as well as representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.   While City Council expressed disappointment that it had taken so long for the Air Force to come directly to Fountain and address the Council and public, we sincerely appreciated the visit and the commitment expressed by Colonel Dorminey, and resolved to work closely with him and his staff as one community to meet the challenges that lie ahead. 

Lastly, City staff participated in a meeting last Thursday with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), the Air Force command directly responsible to work on contaminated water issues with our community.  City staff found the tone of the meeting to be very positive, forward looking and solution focused.  We agreed to work with AFCEC the coming weeks on a written memorandum that will outline roles, responsibilities and the future support we can expect from the Air Force.

In summary, I can tell you that I think this very full week of meetings with the Air Force is already making a difference.  Lines of communication are wide open, better relationships have been established and initial discussions on future plans, support and partnership are now occurring in a way they have not in the past.  Although I know that this will remain a difficult, costly and time consuming problem for us to continue to deal with well into the future, I am very encouraged by the leadership I have seen this week from Peterson AFB, AFCEC, the Department of the Air Force, and by our congressional representatives.  As I reiterated to all of them, the City of Fountain will continue to do its part to be a reliable and active partner, and will do all we can to keep our community informed of their actions to assist us in providing clean, safe and reliable water for our Citizens.  I am also very appreciative of the work by the City Council as well as the City Staff in ensuring we are a voice that is strongly advocating for the citizens. We are all ready to redouble our efforts and move forward as one united Fountain community!

Mayor Gabriel Ortega