Airway Heights recently completed an analysis of alternatives for a long-term water solution, which pointed to the development of a new well.
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — The City of Airway Heights is seeking $22 million from state and federal officials for a new well after the city’s domestic water supply was impacted in May 2017 by chemicals found in fire extinguishing foam and other materials.
Tests done in May 2017 showed that the city’s water supply had been impacted by PFOS and PFOA. The chemicals seeped into groundwater from a fire-training site on the eastern edge of Fairchild Air Force Base, according to the city. A 2018 Washington state law later restricted the use of PFAS in firefighting foam and personal protective equipment.
Three Airway Heights and Medical Lake land owners sued the U.S. government, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force over the contamination in November 2018.
Airway Heights recently completed an analysis of alternatives for a long-term water solution, which pointed to the development of a new well outside of the contaminated aquifer, City Manager Albert Tripp said.
“The development of a water source in an uncontaminated aquifer provides the most sustainable solution for providing safe and reliable drinking water to our customers,” Tripp wrote in a press release. “We are working with state and federal officials to secure funding to complete the project so that local investments can be made into a safe, long-term, clean, and sustainable water solution.”
According to Tripp, $16 million has been placed in the Washington Capital Budget for a new well. The city is currently seeking $22 million from Washington state and the federal government for its development.
In December 2019, the United States Environmental Protection Agency awarded the City of Spokane $3.03 million to build a new water reservoir serving Airway Heights. The city has paid $4 million on a temporary solution to date and each year without a replacement water source costs the city $1.3 million, Tripp said.
“After years of fighting for a fix, we stand hopeful for the recognition of our need while remaining ready to deliver a safe, long-term, clean, and sustainable water solution for our residents and businesses,” Airway Heights Mayor Sonny Weathers said in the press release.
Rep. Jenny Graham (R-Spokane County) said the money is currently included in the House’s version of the capital projects budget, but not in the Senate’s. Whether or not it winds up in the final budget will be determined when the two versions are reconciled.
“We have an opportunity. We do have a hope. There’s no guarantee. There’s 100 percent no guarantee,” she said.
Graham said the case for the project isn’t hard to make when it’s something as fundamental as clean water.
“This is something that’s pretty important. The people in Airway Heights… this was through no fault of their own,” she said. “Clean water is one of your most basic issues. It’s one of the most basic things you need. And it also is vital to growth, whether it’s businesses or families.”