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Arizona Corporation Commissioner investigating contaminated water near Luke Air Force Base

Posted at 11:58 AM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 14:05:15-05

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar announced Monday that an investigation is underway after contaminated water was detected from Valley Utilities Water Company near Luke Air Force Base.

On Thursday, the U.S. Air Force said it was 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.

"I'm opening an investigation to make sure customers have the information they need to keep their families safe. I want to make sure the residents and businesses near the Base can trust the water coming out of their taps," Commissioner Anna Tovar said.

Luke Air Force Base's firefighting team used the chemicals Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfate (PFOS) for more than 30 years as part of its fire suppression efforts. The base changed over to more environmentally friendly chemicals in 2017.

PFOS and PFOA contamination is linked to adverse health effects including cancer and developmental issues in fetuses and infants. Known as "forever chemicals," they will remain in the water indefinitely if not treated, according to the ACC.

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 Corporation Commission has the power to examine the books and records of the utilities we regulate," Commissioner Tovar added. "We have the power to make sure customers are informed and we have the power to make sure the remediation is reasonable, prudent, and lasting. I requested information from Valley Utilities so we know: (1) when it learned about the contamination; (2) how it responded once it had notice; (3) how it intends to fix the situation; and, (4) how it plans to operate moving forward so this doesn't happen again. Customers are my primary concern and I will make sure they are Valley Utilities' first priority as well."

Valley Utilities Water Company serves around 825,000 gallons of water per day to about 4,700 people and is located just west of Luke Air Force Base, the ACC said.

On Wednesday, the commission will gather to assess the situation and question the utilities serving the area surrounding the base.