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Veterans for Peace, Chicago, August 12, 2017
July 29, 2017, 10 AM to 1 PM. Twenty-seven committed souls braved 92 degree heat at the main gate of Fairchild Air Force Base to share little known information about Fairchild. Organized by Spokane Veterans for Peace, we were young and old, male and female, religious and secular. Black and white.
Airway Heights residents lined up by the hundreds Tuesday night to receive bottled water after city officials advised residents not to drink or cook with water from city pipes, as it is likely contaminated with chemical runoff from Fairchild Air Force Base.
But the tap water “is safe for activities where water will not be ingested, such as bathing, doing laundry and washing dishes,” the city and the Air Force said in a joint statement Tuesday evening. They said the warning was issued “out of an abundance of caution.”
Crowds began arriving near the Yokes grocery store in Airway Heights Tuesday night as word spread about the water advisory. Nate Whannell, deputy fire chief for Airway Heights, said firefighters handed out more than 300 packs of water by about 9:15 p.m. Each pack had 35 bottles. Crowds were orderly and police were on hand to direct traffic.
The crews will bring more water to the site to give away to residents starting at 7 a.m., Whannell said.
The perfluorinated chemicals, known by the acronyms PFOS and PFOA, previously were found in a number of private residential wells east of Fairchild. The chemicals are believed to have come from a fire-extinguishing foam the Air Force used from 1970 until last year on a fire-training site as well as two locations where aircraft have crashed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified the chemicals as a health risk last year, and the Pentagon launched a nationwide effort to find and mitigate contamination.
Fairchild officials said last week they had expanded their search farther east and south of the base; the chemicals had been detected at concerning levels in at least 17 wells. Officials began testing groundwater on the base in February, and off the base in early April.
In the statement, Air Force Col. Ryan Samuelson said that “we cannot know the extent to which any past base activities contributed to the PFOS/PFOA concentrations in this area.”
In a phone call, Airway Heights Mayor Kevin Ritchey said base officials tested four city wells and found contamination in three of them, all in the area of West 21st Avenue and South Lawson Street.
Ritchey said he was surprised to learn of the results Tuesday afternoon.
The city plans to stop pumping water from the affected wells and link its system with the city of Spokane’s, as it often does in the summer months to meet increased demand, Ritchey said. The city also has begun a flushing routine that should reduce chemical concentrations to safe levels within three or four days.
“The problem is the test results take about a week, so we’re talking seven to 10 days to be completely sure” the contamination is reduced, Ritchey said.
The EPA says most people have low levels of the chemicals in their bloodstreams because of exposure from consumer products. But a growing body of research suggests high concentrations are linked with health defects in lab animals, including low birth weight, high cholesterol, delayed puberty and poor responses to vaccination.
Some residents were upset and others seemed to take the water advisory in stride.
“I’m frustrated,” said Sharay Davis as she waited in line to collect water. “This shouldn’t have happened. It’s kind of ridiculous.”
Travis Baldwin said he’s lived near the base his entire life is not worried.
“I’m healthy,” he said.
The Air Force said the EPA’s recommendations are based on “cumulative lifetime exposure from water ingestion, not from skin contact or breathing water vapor.”
Officials are looking for alternative water sources and may install filtration systems on the affected wells.
“We care about the health and well-being of our families, neighbors and community partners, and we understand those impacted, or potentially impacted, by this emerging issue have legitimate concerns,” Samuelson said in the statement.
Please share this with anyone you know!
Spokane VFP appreciates your help in bringing expert witnesses to testify in support of a necessity defense for the Spokane Climate Defenders, three members of our chapter and three Raging Grannies who stopped fossil fuel trains in August and September.
Tax deductible checks may be written to Spokane Veterans for Peace and mailed to:
Vets for Peace, 35 W. Main, #120 M, Spokane, WA 99201.
Online, use GoFundMe.com and find Spokane Climate Protectors. Alternatively you can use the donate button on this page (upper right hand corner).
Motions will be heard Friday, May 19, 2017. That evening, our experts will meet the public at 7:00 in the lobby of the Community Building to discuss our campaign to protect the air and water and explain their perspectives on our case.
Three people were arrested Thursday evening in a protest against oil and coal trains that shut down the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks near Trent Avenue and Napa Street.
This protest, organized by Veterans for Peace, is the second in Spokane in the last month. The first was organized by the Raging Grannies and also saw three people arrested.
About a dozen protesters gathered on the tracks in front of a stopped train to speak against oil and coal trains as well as global warming. “I’m here to witness to my faith,” said the Rev. George Taylor, a Lutheran pastor. “Oil and coal trains are an abomination to the Lord.”
The stopped train visible on the tracks was pulling a large number of what appeared to be oil tanker cars. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said he would not confirm what the train was carrying. Three trains were halted by the protest, he said.
A BNSF police officer warned the crowd to disperse and most of them did. The three remaining – Taylor, activist Rusty Nelson and Maevea Aeolus – were arrested and face charges of trespassing and blocking a train.
Nancy Nelson, who was arrested and charged after the first protest last month, said her husband Rusty was arrested because things like speaking out at council meetings, signing petitions and writing letters wasn’t working.
“We have to do what we can,” she said. “In our minds they are death trains.”
Melonas said people are welcome to speak their mind about oil trains, but the company asks that people not block the train tracks.
“It’s extremely dangerous as well as disruptive,” he said.