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Chemicals found in well by Luke Air Force Base, bottled water advised

(Facebook Photo/Luke AFB, Arizona-56th Fighter Wing)

PHOENIX – Thousands of people who live near Luke Air Force Base in the West Valley are being advised to drink bottled water after high levels of toxic chemicals were discovered in wells near the base.

The chemicals are believed to be from toxic firefighting foam that was absorbed into the ground around the military base.

Although it’s unclear how long the water has been contaminated, it’s believed 1,700 customers of Valley Utilities Water Co. have been impacted.

Affected residents and businesses have been notified and are encouraged to pick up bottled water for the next month at a distribution center located at 7011 N. El Mirage Road in Glendale from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

“We don’t necessarily know how many individuals per residence because it’s not just residences – there’s obviously businesses and there are three schools affected as well,” Colonel Ryan Richardson, Commander of the Mission Support Group at Luke Air Force Base, said Tuesday at the water distribution site.

The toxic chemicals were discovered after water was collected from several Valley Utilities wells to see if there were any toxic chemicals related to the foam used to put out jet fuel fires.

At least one of the water samples from the Valley Utilities wells exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Lifetime Health Advisory” for the chemicals, indicating the well water could be dangerous if consumed.

The neighboring city of El Mirage in an email statement Tuesday night reassured people the city’s drinking water is safe.

“The City’s dedicated team maintains all City wells and works directly with county and state agencies to ensure adequate testing and quality water for residents,” the statement read. “El Mirage water meets all applicable public health standards, and City staff are closely following EPA updates on this item.”

While Commander Richardson said there are no known cancer clusters linked to airmen at Luke Air Force Base to the best of his knowledge, he had a message for concerned neighbors in the community.

“Whether you’ve lived here five years and you’ve been consuming the water or 20 years or more it’s a tough conversation to have,” Commander Richardson said. “The recommendation would be to have a conversation with their physician about any concerns about consuming the water as it relates to any condition they may or may not have had as a result of the water.”

The chemicals found in Valley Utilities’ water are included in a larger investigation as over 200 other military bases across the country are investigating similar concerns.

The firefighting foam was used since the 1970s at Luke Air Force Base. In recent years, the Air Force has transitioned away from the foam because of its known toxins.

It’s unclear if more wells will be tested near Luke Air Force Base as those actions are dependent on the Air Force Civil Engineers Center.

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