FOUNTAIN, Colo. — Volk Sanders burst into this world on June 7, a six-pound fuzz-headed ball of joy and his mother’s first child.
Days later, Volk’s mother learned that the well water she had consumed for years had been laced with chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency associates with low birth weight, cancers, thyroid disease and more.
The aquifer that courses beneath this community in the shadow of five military installations showed traces of perfluorinated chemicals at up to 20 times the levels viewed as safe, environmental authorities said. A sudsy foam used for fighting fires on military bases was probably responsible, according to the Air Force, with the contamination perhaps decades old.
“I’m very angry,” Volk’s mother, Carmen Soto, 20, said at a packed community meeting on July 7. Volk had struggled to gain weight, she said, and she wondered if that was related to the contamination. “They’ve known about this for how long, and they’re just telling us? I drank water throughout my pregnancy. What is that going to do?”
Fountain — named for a creek that once gave life to this southern Colorado town — is now part of a growing list of American communities dealing with elevated levels of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, in their drinking water. In the last few months, PFC poisoning has upended municipalities around the country, including Hoosick Falls, N.Y., home to a plastics factory, and North Bennington, Vt., once home to a chemical plant.