EPA hosts second PFAS community engagement event in Horsham, Pa.

A month after the EPA hosted its first PFAS community engagement event in Exeter on June 25-26, the second event took place in Horsham, Pennsylvania, on July 25, which has experienced similar contamination from PFOA and PFOS chemicals.

The chemicals were traced to firefighting foams at U.S. Naval facilities in Horsham and the neighboring town of Warminster.

The event featured a review of ongoing EPA PFAS research, panel discussions with federal, Mid-Atlantic state and local township officials and public comments where 50 residents spoke about their concerns and experiences with PFAS.

The EPA plans to review their comments as it prepares its PSAS management plan it said it will release later this year.

Horsham Township Manager William Walker said the EPA has been involved in community water issues since 2014 when it tested two public wells and found them above the acceptable levels of 200 and 400 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS.

“We shut down both wells, notified residents and set up interconnections with separate water suppliers,” Walker said.

“In 2016, when EPA came out with a Maximum Contaminant Level of 70 parts per trillion we shut down all our wells and increased water with other suppliers to maximum amounts, 1.2 million gallons a day which was more than double what we normally bring in,” he added.

The town then set up short and long-term remediation plans that used carbon filters to clean up the water.

“We were the first water supplier in the U.S. to use a resin filtration system for our public water supply,” Walker said. “By early 2017, public water was at non-detect levels.”

Rick Rogers, chief of the Drinking Water Branch at the EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Philadelphia, said the EPA began providing safe drinking water to residents after PFAS were first detected in 2014 and distributed bottled water to residents with private wells.

“Then we began connecting homes with private wells to public water. Most homes have been connected and seven continue to receive bottled water,” he said.

Resident comments at the Horsham meeting ranged from asserting the Navy’s responsibility for reimbursement costs to questions about the cancer risk from PFAS.

“Residents feel they shouldn’t be paying for this, and while there may be no direct link to cancer from these chemicals, there are stories of illness that must be examined,” Walker said.

Rogers said the Navy has reimbursed the town of Horsham for some of the costs, but that it won’t pay for costs relating homes that don’t exceed the EPA MCL standard of 70 ppt.

“They want the Navy to reimburse them for the additional costs, but the Navy can’t do it because of their policies,” he said.

Horsham’s PFAS experience is similar to New Hampshire’s, which experienced PFAS from the Saint-Gobain plant in Merrimack as well as the Pease Air Force base in Portsmouth. The EPA monitored contamination levels and worked with the Department of Environmental Services to oversee the distribution of bottled water to homes with private wells and establish connections to public water.

The EPA’s next community engagements are set for Aug. 7-8 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Aug. 14 in Fayetteville, North Carolina.