Colorado health officials announced Tuesday an emergency plan after detecting high levels of contamination and toxicity in groundwater in several cities, including the capital, Denver, which affects at least 3.5 million people who are supplied from wells.

These are chemicals that produce kidney disease, cancer and developmental problems from industries, military bases and even fire stations, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Tests conducted in the water of the metropolitan area of the capital and other urban areas such as Boulder and Colorado Springs, detected the presence of “permanent chemicals,” said the CDPHE.

The most common element, fluorochemicals, or PFAS, were found in Denver areas at a level nearly 3,000 times the federal government’s acceptable healthy limits.

The contamination especially affects the area near Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, east of Denver, and the area of Colorado’s only refinery, Suncor, in Commerce City, north of that city.

In Colorado Springs, the second most populous city in the state, the level of groundwater contamination near the Air Force Academy is 1,000 times greater than federal limits.

According to local health officials, the contamination is “broader and more severe” than previously thought, and the problem affects more people who depend on well water than in any other state.

In fact, two other recent reports already indicated that Denver’s water was contaminated by microplastics and that the suburban lands north of that city are still contaminated by waste from metallurgical companies and military bases already closed, but that operated in that area for decades.

John Putnam, director of environmental programs at the CDPHE, said they are testing water from 400 private wells and taking blood samples from people who drink that water.

According to Putnam, the priority is “to prevent people from drinking that (contaminated) water,” but first you have to determine where it comes from, how far it goes, and where it’s going.

The emergency plan includes new funding for the CDPHE (each water test costs about $400), increasing the authority of the Department of Health to monitor water quality, setting limits for PFAS, and coordinating water cleanup with local, state and federal jurisdictions.

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