U.S. Water News Online
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A recent federal report says a Cold War-era missile site near Cheyenne is the likely source of contamination in the city's drinking water supply.
The report, which was released last week to some government officials, says there's likely a connection between a chemical used at the Atlas No. 4-missile site west of town and contamination in city water wells.
“We have been able to confirm the probable connection between the source of the contamination and the wells,” said Paul Johnston, public affairs officer for the Omaha District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which includes Cheyenne.
Cheyenne officials say Cheyenne drinking water is safe. The city has spent thousands of dollars removing trichloroethylene, or TCE, from the water since it was discovered about a decade ago.
The military used TCE during the Cold War to clean and lubricate nuclear missiles near Cheyenne. The chemical can affect the nervous system and cause liver and kidney damage in people.
The new federal report fails to reach a definitive conclusion but points to the missile site as the source of the contamination. However, it all but rules out several alternative sources of TCE contamination in the area, including oil and gas drilling, industrial and chemical facilities and private property owners.
“Based on all currently available data, TCE from Site 4 has likely impacted water quality in the western portion of the (municipal) well field,” the report said.
Bud Spillman, water treatment division manager for the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, said the report provides the strongest evidence yet of the contamination link.
“It's another piece of the puzzle,” Spillman said.
Cheyenne Mayor Jack Spiker said city officials long have suspected the connection between the missile site and the TCE. He said he hopes that a solution with the federal government will be reached soon.
“I've always had every confidence that once we identified the source through the Corps that the government will take care of it,” Spiker said. “That appears to be the direction they are going in.
“The end users of that product need to be reassured that our water meets the highest standards coming out of the treatment plant,” Spiker said. “It's very, very good water.”
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., issued a statement calling on the U.S. Department of Defense to take full responsibility for the contamination.
Barrasso said the federal government has tried to blame “almost any other entity” for the source of the TCE contamination over the years. He said the link between the nuclear missile sites and the contamination is now clear and said the Department of Defense needs pay for cleanup.
“Untold thousands of local taxpayer dollars have gone to keep TCE out of the water supply,” Barrasso said. “The Army Corps and the U.S. government have a responsibility to fund the cleanup.”
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