Navy says 3 Northampton private wells contaminated with PFCs

by Kyle Bagenstose, originally posted on January 25, 2017


Officials with the U.S. Navy visited the Northampton Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to deliver an update on the department’s investigation of PFOS and PFOA contamination emanating from the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster.

William Lin, the Navy’s environmental coordinator for the site, and Gregory Preston, director of the Navy’s BRAC Program Management Office East, spoke for about 10 minutes before taking several questions from supervisors and the audience.

Navy officials said that 54 private wells have been tested in Northampton so far, and three have been found to contain the chemicals at levels greater than the 70 part per trillion advisory limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those homes, in the area of New Road, are being provided bottled water until the Navy can complete an investigation into whether or not the Navy is at fault or the contamination is coming from a different source, Lin said.

“We are doing an investigation through the spring and summer, and as information becomes available we hope to take action,” Lin said.

Under co-operative agreements signed with neighboring townships, the Navy has paid to connect homes with contaminated private wells to public water systems. Navy officials said Wednesday that in Warminster alone, the department has agreed to pay $9.3 million for clean-up operations to date.

In all affected areas in Bucks and Montgomery counties, the number of contaminated private wells now exceeds 200.

Lin added that the Navy was still working to identify and test additional wells in the New Road area and would base any further expansion of the testing area on the results.

Asked by supervisor Larry Weinstein whether or not the Navy had a firm grasp on the contamination plume in the underlying water aquifer, or whether it had mapped such a plume, Lin said it had not.

“We are undergoing an investigation (of that) right now,” Lin said.

The officials added that the Navy continues to operate filtration equipment at the former NAWC site that has already been in place to remove contaminants such as trichloroethylene. Such clean-up has been taking place since the 1990s, and the equipment used also removes PFOA and PFOS.

Northampton, Bucks County, Municipal Authority executive director Thomas Zeuner also briefly spoke at the meeting and said that PFOS and PFOA levels in the town’s public water wells are being measured quarterly and that readings have remained steady over the past several testings.

All PFOA and PFOS levels remain well below the EPA’s 70-ppt limit.

As previously reported by this news organization, 80 percent of the water in that system comes from the Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority supply, which doesn’t contain PFOA or PFOS.

The remaining 20 percent of the township’s public water comes from 15 groundwater wells. Testing over the summer showed the chemicals present in 14 of the 15 wells, averaging 14 ppt.

Northampton’s water supply is less affected than that of nearby Warminster, Warrington and Horsham. Sixteen public water wells spread throughout those three townships have been closed since 2014 due to contamination greater than 70 ppt.


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