EL MIRAGE, AZ — The U.S. Air Force is giving bottled water to 1,600 West Valley families after it discovered toxic chemicals, which are no longer used at Luke Air Force Base, managed to make their way into the water supply.
For more than 30 years the firefighting team at Luke used the chemicals Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfate (PFOS) as part of its fire suppression efforts. The base changed over to more environmentally friendly chemicals in 2017.
The Air Force first became aware that the chemicals were showing up outside of Luke when private water wells south of the base were tested in 2018. Those wells contain levels that exceeded 70 parts per trillion, which is what the EPA considers dangerous. The Air Force says it removed the contaminants from the wells in 2019.
The Air Force then asked to test the water supplies of two utility companies, Liberty and Valley. Both serve communities east of Luke. In December, preliminary test results came back positive for Valley Utility Company. They were confirmed last week.
"When I opened the envelope Monday, it might have been the clue that led us to something that caused this," said Anthony Rattigan.
Rattigan and Nickki Sidavone moved into their home two miles east of Luke in March 2020. By May 2020, Nickki was becoming violently ill and no one could figure out why. Then in January, Nickki learned she was going to need a kidney transplant. Now, Nickki and Anthony wonder if it has been the water that is causing her health problems.
"I think everyone in this area should get their health checked because you don't know if it affected your body,” Sidavone said.
A spokesman for Luke Air Force Base says it will take until April before corrective measures are taken and the water will once again be safe for drinking and cooking. In the meantime, the base is arranging home-delivered water for those who need it.
Everyone who was in the impacted area should have received a letter in the mail explaining the situation. It also included information on where to pick up free bottled water, and how to have Luke deliver free water to your home.
"At this point, I accept it now. I'm pretty much looking out for other people now that might be in my situation, " Sidavone said.
Rattigan and Sidavone don't know if it was the water that made her sick, but they are trying to move ahead with their lives. They have started a GoFundMe account to raise $50,000 for a kidney transplant.