Res­i­dents sound off to EPA

Fo­rum ad­dresses lo­cal is­sues of wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion; lo­cal man­agers give up­dates on progress so far

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil dsokil@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @dan­sokil on Twit­ter

HOR­SHAM » Res­i­dents and lo­cal law­mak­ers spent much of the af­ter­noon July 25 send­ing a clear mes­sage to the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency — they want con­tam­i­nated ground­wa­ter near two for­mer air­bases cleaned up as soon as pos­si­ble.

“These neigh­bors are ask­ing, ‘How could this hap­pen?’ And what med­i­cal chal­lenges are in their fu­ture and in the fu­ture of their chil­dren?” said state Rep. Tom Murt, R-152.

Murt was one of dozens of lo­cal res­i­dents and of­fi­cials who spoke dur­ing an EPA com­mu­nity en­gage­ment meet­ing meant to gather feed­back from area res­i­dents on the cleanup of two con­tam­i­nants — per­flu­o­rooc­tanoic acid (PFOA) and per­flu­o­rooc­tane sul­fonate (PFOS) — found in pub­lic and pri­vate wells in the area of for­mer air sta­tions in Hor­sham and Warmin­ster town­ships and linked to fire­fight­ing chem­i­cals used there.

“To­day, we are here to lis­ten, not only at a re­gional level but at a na­tional level. This is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for us to learn from each other,” said EPA Re­gional Ad­min­is­tra­tor Cosmo Ser­vidio.

The EPA an­nounced in May four pri­or­i­ties for tack­ling the ground­wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion in the Hor­sham and Warmin­ster ar­eas and at other sim­i­lar sites across the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to Ser­vidio and Peter Gre­vatt, EPA’s di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Ground Wa­ter and Drink­ing Wa­ter.

The EPA is cur­rently in the process of eval­u­at­ing the proper max­i­mum con­tam­i­nant level of PFOA and PFOS, while start­ing the process of des­ig­nat­ing the two as haz­ardous sub­stances un­der fed­eral Su­per­fund laws.

“That’s a very im­por­tant step, for two rea­sons — un­less a com­pound is des­ig­nated as a haz­ardous sub­stance, un­der Su­per­fund, we’re not able to or­der cleanups, nor are we able to re­cover any costs we may in­cur when clean­ing up con­tam­i­nated sites,” Gre­vatt said.

The third EPA com­mit­ment was to de­velop ground­wa­ter cleanup rec­om­men­da­tions for sites con­tam­i­nated with PFOS and PFOA, which he said should be done by fall 2018, and the fourth pri­or­ity is to work with other fed­eral and state agen­cies to de­velop ac­cept­able stan­dards for other sim­i­lar com­pounds that may also prove to have con­tam­i­nated sim­i­lar ar­eas.

“There are many thou­sands of these com­pounds. We know a fair amount about a few of them. We need to know much more about the com­pounds that are in the en­vi­ron­ment, and we’re do­ing re­search to help fill those types of gaps,” Gre­vatt said.

“We also heard a clear call from many of the par­tic­i­pants to­day about the need to balance our work on a small num­ber of com-

pounds, where we’ve taken ac­tion so far, and the need to un­der­stand the broader set of com­pounds in the en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Hor­sham, War­ring­ton and Warmin­ster each de­scribed how those three town­ships have all com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing lev­els of PFOS and PFOA well be­low the EPA’s ad­vi­sory level of 70 parts per tril­lion down to a non-de­tectible level, and all three gave up­dates on how fil­tra­tion sys­tems have been added to con­tam­i­nated wells and new con­nec­tions made for res­i­dents with con­tam­i­nated wells to use pub­lic sys­tems but with lit­tle move­ment on fed­eral fund­ing to fix those prob­lems.

“We’re look­ing to EPA and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to set a standard for PFOS and PFOA, which would re­quire the Depart­ment of De­fense to as­sist with fund­ing, that would make all of the wa­ter non-de­tectible,” said War­ring­ton Town­ship Man­ager Barry Lu­ber.

“These three com­mu­ni­ties are all pretty much non-de­tectible, but the big­gest is­sue with all three of us is re­im­burse­ment. All three com­mu­ni­ties, and rightly so, want it to non-de­tectible sta­tus, and so we want re­im­burse­ment of costs we’ve al­ready in­curred, but also fu­ture costs,” said Hor­sham Town­ship Man­ager Bill Walker.

A series of res­i­dent groups also took the floor to raise con­cerns of other ar­eas that have also found con­tam­i­na­tion in re­cent months, in­clud­ing Up­per Dublin, whose town­ship man­ager, Paul Leonard, said his 28,000 res­i­dents cur­rently re­ceive drink­ing wa­ter from three dif­fer­ent util­i­ties, one of which — Aqua Penn­syl­va­nia — has de­tected con­tam­i­na­tion lev­els be­low the 70 PPT level but above the non-de­tectible level in two of its wells.

“Aqua, through my as­sess­ment as town­ship man­ager, is in need of your sup­port for a rapid un­der­stand­ing of the con­di­tions for ground­wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion and the im­pact on other wells, as well as sur­face wa­ter sources, for drink­ing wa­ter,” he said.

Leonard said his town­ship’s com­mis­sion­ers voted ear­lier this month to in­di­cate their unan­i­mous sup­port for a bill spon­sored by Murt, the Penn­syl­va­nia Safe Drink­ing Wa­ter Act or House Bill 705, which would set a state standard of only five PPT for PFOS and PFOA each, well be­low the cur­rent EPA level of a com­bined 70 PPT.

Town­ship res­i­dents Mark Cuker, Lisa Faden and Jill Florin spoke out on be­half of a new Face­book group they have cre­ated, ti­tled “Up­per Dublin Wa­ter Up­dates,” meant to raise aware­ness of the con­tam­i­na­tion de­tected in that town­ship and push for a lower standard there.

“Suf­fice it to say, we’re not happy with the sta­tus quo,” Cuker said.

Florin and Faden said they have heard from Aqua rep­re­sen­ta­tives that fil­tra­tion sys­tems on the two af­fected wells would cost roughly $1 mil­lion each, but the com­pany is work­ing on a series of tiers to spec­ify what level of con­tam­i­nants they find ac­cept­able, all of which are be­low the 70 PPT EPA level but above the non-de­tectible level.

“I’ve heard other town­ships, who re­ally are do­ing every­thing in their power to get their wa­ter lev­els down to non-de­tectible lev­els. Un­for­tu­nately, our town­ship has Aqua, and Aqua has done noth­ing,” said Florin.

In a video mes­sage to the dozens of res­i­dents present, U.S. Rep. Bren­dan Boyle, D-13, said he has pushed for lower PFOS and PFOA stan­dards to be cod­i­fied at the na­tional level while push­ing the EPA and Depart­ment of De­fense to no longer, in his words, “play whack-a-mole to ad­dress is­sues of con­tam­i­na­tion on a piece­meal ba­sis, af­ter the dam­age is al­ready done.”

“Our com­mu­nity has been faced with a great chal­lenge, and I re­main fully com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure the fed­eral gov­ern­ment fi­nally ful­fils its re­spon­si­bil­ity to make this sit­u­a­tion right,” Boyle said.

“Whether in Wash­ing­ton or back home, I won’t stop fight­ing to rem­edy this is­sue, to­day and into the fu­ture, in Hor­sham and across the coun­try,” he said.

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