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Willow Springs Ponds #2

Located just south of Colorado Springs, Willow Springs Ponds #2 is a popular spot for city residents to enjoy the outdoors. The ponds are also a stop on the Fountain Creek Regional Trail, which runs from Colorado Springs to Pueblo. The park surrounding the ponds includes picnic areas, a playground, a basketball court, and horseshoe pits. A trail encircles the ponds, providing opportunities for walking, running, and biking. Fishing is allowed in the ponds, and common catches include bass, bluegill, and catfish. Willow Springs Ponds #2 was once part of a larger Willow Lake, which has since been drained. The ponds are now fed by groundwater and Fountain Creek.


Earlier this month, Fountain welcomed some good news regarding a popular fishing spot. Kathy Andrew, manager of El Paso County’s Environmental Division, says Willow Springs Ponds #2 water no longer needs to regularly be tested for tetrachloroethylene, or PCE after years of quarterly sampling has confirmed that the chemical’s levels consistently test below the maximum stipulated by the state’s water quality standards. 30 years ago, pollution in the ponds was discovered and traced to a Schlage lock manufacturing facility in Security, where PCE content was used to clean metal parts.


PCE, a probable human carcinogen, is a synthetic chemical that is used commercially as an industrial degreaser and in dry-cleaning and has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and low birth weight. Furthermore, it’s been said that long-term exposure to low levels of PCE can damage the liver and central nervous system.


An agreement the county had with the company was amended two years ago to state that if quarterly samplings continued to show that PCE levels were below the state’s threshold through Sept. 28, 2017, the company would no longer need to hire a contractor to do the tests, Andrew said. The county is in the process of removing two aerators that were placed in the pond to help remove the chemicals from the water. They also have plans to dredge the pond shortly.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has conducted several investigations of sites where PCE has been released into the environment and has taken action at a number of these locations to protect human health and the environment. In many cases, the EPA has required companies responsible for contamination to take action to clean up the sites. 


After PCE-contaminated soils were discovered at the Security plant in 1987, a whistle-blower who previously worked there said barrels containing PCE-laden oils were being emptied at the site nearly 10 years earlier. At the height of the issue, tainted groundwater ran southwest from the plant for about a mile, then turned south and entered the Widefield aquifer, ending about 3.5 miles later at the ponds. In 2007, after ten years of remediation efforts, a fishing ban put in place after contamination was discovered was lifted. Until 2015, anglers were warned to limit the number of fish they eat per week.


However, it is believed that PCE contamination from the Schlage plant was not related to the perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFCs, that were discovered above EPA-recommended levels in wells in Security, Widefield, and Fountain last year.

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