It took a good year just to figure out what had happened and who we needed to talk to. For a while, the question was, “How do we get a seat at the table?” There’s a saying, “If you can’t find a seat at the table, bring your own chair.” But for a long time, we couldn’t even find the table.
The pivotal moment was when I went to a national PFAS conference in Boston, and met other people like me. They had learned their water was contaminated and didn’t have a clue what to do next.
Finally, we figured out how to get the EPA to listen to what we wanted: information on how this contamination impacted our health. We petitioned the EPA to include Fountain Valley in a study of five sites that had been impacted by PFAS. Later, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the CDC chose the Fountain Valley area as one of eight sites for an environmental and health study.
But we also realized that we didn’t have time to sit around and wait. The EPA takes forever to make new regulations, and meanwhile the evidence that PFAS can harm the immune system, cause high blood pressure during pregnancy, and increase risk of asthma, liver disease, and cancer is becoming clearer and clearer. If we wanted to get something done, it had to be at the state level. So in 2019, we ran and passed our first bill at the Colorado General Assembly to ban firefighting foams containing PFAS.