WATER CONTAMINATION: Local lawmakers call for continued EPA, DOD action

by Dan Sokil, originally posted on June 12, 2016


Local lawmakers are continuing their calls for government action to clean up contaminated water near two former military bases.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a resolution sponsored by three local lawmakers urging the federal government to address the ongoing water and health problems in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington.

“I am especially concerned that the EPA knowingly allowed water it deemed unsafe for infants to flow into our homes for more than a year,” said state Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151.

Stephens and fellow Reps. Kathy Watson, R-144, and Bernie O’Neill, R-29, all cosponsored House Resolution 916, which directs the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense to find the extent of contamination, provide complete remediation, fully evaluate the local health consequences and monitor residents and military personnel who may have been exposed to water contamination.

“Residents have many questions regarding these chemicals, how widely they were used at these federal facilities and how their health may be adversely affected,” Watson said in a statement.

“These residents, many who have lived in the area for a long time and raised their families here, deserve to know what’s going on and what’s going to be done to address their concerns,” she said.

O’Neill said he has received many calls from constituents trying to find out what has happened and what can be done to prevent it in the future and said he has been working closely with the Navy and the Warminster Water Authority to find answers.

“In order to improve and protect our quality of life, our communities must be assured of a safe and reliable water supply,” O’Neill said.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-13, issued a call this week for a formal congressional hearing to investigate groundwater contamination at bases across the country, including in Horsham and Warminster.

“Concern among Horsham’s residents has significantly increased since the EPA tightened its health advisory guideline for these contaminants in our drinking water. A growing body of studies links these contaminants to various forms of cancer, thyroid disease and other health complications,” said Boyle in a statement issued Monday.

“While I appreciate the EPA’s heightened scrutiny of these contaminants and the Navy’s commitment to monitoring wells and taking implicated wells offline, I believe officials have thus far failed to present adequate information to the public regarding the latest science and known health risks posed to our community. That is why I am calling for a congressional hearing,” he said.

In recent months, Boyle and several other local lawmakers have asked the Navy to provide more information about water issues surrounding detected levels of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate), both found near both bases, and in April, the lawmakers called on EPA to issue stricter lifetime health advisory standards, a step it took in May.

“The Department of Defense has an annual budget of approximately $2.5 billion taxpayer dollars to remediate health and environmental threats such as those posed by PFOS and PFOA contamination for which it is responsible, in my district and nationwide,” Boyle said.

“However, despite the serious health risks posed by prolonged exposure to and accumulation of PFOS and PFOA in potable water sources on these sites, the response has lacked the urgency I believe is necessary to address this public health threat. These investigation and clean-up efforts are seriously undermined by a lack of urgency on the part of the DOD.”

Stephens issued a similar call Tuesday and has created an online petition for Horsham residents to sign asking for EPA action.

“I’ve been fighting to force the federal government to fulfill their obligations to residents of Horsham Township who have been told twice in two years that the public water they have been consuming contained unsafe levels of contaminants that have been linked to several health conditions including cancer,” Stephens said in a June 7 statement.

“While Horsham’s public drinking water is now well below the EPA’s new guidelines, after two years, the public water continues to contain low levels of these contaminants,” he said.

As a lifelong resident of Horsham Township, Stephens said, he has asked fellow lawmakers including Boyle to help seek carbon filters for all public wells, blood testing for those affected and a health study to better understand health risks to residents.

“Rest assured I will continue doing everything in my power to ensure we receive the protections, services and information we deserve,” he said.

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