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Senators laud $86 million grant promoting clean drinking water to rural areas

PFAS can cause cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility and other diseases
Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper welcomed nearly $86 million in grant funding to help promote clean drinking water in rural Colorado communities on Thursday.

The grant comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and was made available through the Environmental Protection Agency to address contaminants in drinking water. The efforts will target small, rural and disadvantaged communities.

“We must urgently eradicate PFAS from our drinking water, especially in historically overlooked areas in rural Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “We fought for this funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to do just that.”

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are the contaminants being found in Colorado’s water supply. The health effects associated with PFAS include cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, and increased risk of asthma and thyroid disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“For years, I’ve sounded the alarm on PFAS contamination and the urgent need to protect our communities, drinking water, and ecosystems from this threat,” said Bennet in the release.

Rural communities are more likely to suffer from drinking water contaminated by PFAS, according to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. The grant will be used to strengthen water infrastructure while safeguarding public health, building on EPA’s Strategic Roadmap to address contaminants.

The grants “will help protect our smallest and most vulnerable communities from these persistent and dangerous chemicals,” Regan said in the release.

The funds for Colorado are part of $2 billion allotted to states and territories that can be used to prioritize infrastructure and source water treatment for pollutants and to conduct water quality testing. The funding will be made available to communities through the EPA’s Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities Grant Program.

The PFAS were originally found last year in firefighting foam used at Peterson Space Force Base, which contaminated the Widefield aquifer that provides drinking water to thousands of local residents and area ponds. The senators introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would reimburse local water districts for PFAS contamination cleanup.

“All Coloradans deserve clean air and clean water, and this funding will help historically underserved communities eradicate harmful chemicals from their water,” Bennet said.

Sarah Mattalian is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at smattalian@durangoherald.com.

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