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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Water is the new gold, and our gold is rotten’: West Plains Water Coalition produces short film on unfolding PFAS contamination

West Plains residents study a map of private wells contaminated with PFAS.  (Courtesy of West Plains Water Coalition)

Launching a short film and a new website, the West Plains Water Coalition is raising awareness on chemical exposure in ground water and pushing public officials to do something about it.

“Troubled Waters – PFAS on Spokane’s West Plains” is a 20-minute short film that delves into the stories of West Plains residents who learned the water they have been drinking has been contaminated for decades.

“Water is the new gold, and our gold is rotten,” coalition secretary Michele Baca says in the film.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl – PFAS – are a family of over 10,000 long-lasting human-made chemicals that are used in commercial and industrial products that break down slowly over time.

Dubbed “forever chemicals,” depending upon their forms, PFAS can take decades to dissipate in the environment or to metabolize out of the body. Because of the chemicals’ widespread use, most people in the United States and around the world have some level of PFAS circulating in their body.

The West Plains has been exposed to high levels of the chemicals from firefighting foam that was used at Fairchild Air Force Base and the Spokane International Airport.

At a screening of the film earlier this month coalition vice president Mo Noder said he hoped the film would bring awareness to their community to pressure public officials into speeding up a cleanup that could take more than a decade.

“We had no members or a coalition,” Noder said of the coalition’s first meeting little more than a year ago. “Just gathering neighbors meeting together for the first time. But in less than one year we are accelerating momentum and we’re going to be really hard to stop.”

The short was directed by local filmmaker Don Hamilton, who hopes to make follow-up films that tell more stories from residents on the West Plains.

“More people are coming forward. There are more stories to tell,” Hamilton said. “This project was very difficult to be a part of. This is people’s lives. Whatever the mystery of PFAS, their lives have been changed forever.”

In addition to being available on the group’s YouTube page, the film’s publication coincides with the coalition’s new website. documents in great detail the history of PFAS in the West Plains.

The website also has a tool that estimates the potential PFAS contamination across the West Plains and Spokane.

Those concerned if their home or private well has been contaminated can enter their address to see the PFAS well results within one mile of the location. The interactive map also show’s the location’s soil type and proximity to a paleochannel through which underground water flows – both indicators for an area’s susceptibility to any PFAS exposure.

Over the past year, the West Plains Water Coalition has been collecting area residents’ well-testing results to create the interactive map, which will become more accurate over time as more wells in the area are tested. Those interested can find the map at, and residents of the West Plains can submit their well testing results to the coalition by emailing

The West Plains Water Coalition is hosting a primer on the mapping of well testing in the area on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. Located at the HUB in Airway Heights, the event will feature Chad Pritchard, an Eastern Washington University geologist who is conducting well testing as part of a study.