Citizens demand answers at water contamination meeting

Citizens demand answers at water contamination meeting

On Tuesday, hundreds of people packed into the auditorium of Medical Lake High School to get their questions and concerns answered about the City of Airway Heights’ contaminated water.

It’s been a week since Fairchild and Airway Heights announced the city’s water supply was not safe to drink, after chemicals used in fire suppression foam, previously used at the base, were found in some of the city’s wells.

Fairchild Air Force Base says its goal in this situation is to be as transparent and accessible as possible.

At the meeting, representatives from Fairchild, the EPA, the Washington Department of Health, and the Spokane Regional Health District presented and were available to answer questions.

“We take our responsibility to keep you informed and to take appropriate actions to ensure safe drinking water seriously,” Colonel Ryan Samuelson told the crowd.

Representatives from Fairchild, the Department of Health, and the City of Airway Heights presented to the crowd, then people were encouraged to ask questions individually of the organizations at tables set up around the auditorium.

“We will try to answer as many of your questions as we can but the science around these chemicals and how they affect the health of people is a young science, so we have a lot of questions too,” explained a representative with the Department of Health during the presentations.

“My most important thing was nobody left here feeling like we were not going to take a question and search an answer for them,” Colonel Samuelson said.

But some attendees said there still is a lot about the situation they don’t know.

“I don’t think I really got any information than I already currently have,” said Amber Wiseman after the presentations. “I think they were quiet about certain events, certain numbers, certain things, they didn’t want to address those, they wanted to do it individually only.”

Julie Dibble lives near the base. She says her family was recently told the water on the property they’ve had for generations is contaminated. She says Fairchild also found different chemicals on their property back in the 1980s.

She feels the Air Force isn’t being as transparent to her and her neighbors as they say, and says there are still many unknowns of how these chemicals will affect her family.

“What’s going to happen to us?” she said. “What’s going to happen to our children? Ten years from now, what’s going to happen when they find another chemical in our water? This is the second time, the fifth chemical.”

Fairchild says the Air Force is committed to working with the community to protect human health and resolve the issue at hand.