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EPA officials hear directly from residents at Horsham meeting By Jenny Wagner, Bucks County Courier Times

 

http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/20180725/epa-officials-hear-directly-from-residents-at-horsham-meeting/1

 

EPA officials hear directly from residents at Horsham meeting

By Jenny Wagner

Posted Jul 25, 2018 at 11:17 PM Updated Jul 25, 2018 at 11:17 PM

 

More than 50 residents, elected officials and others spoke to EPA officials during the second half of a meeting Wednesday in Horsham to discuss area PFAS contamination.

One by one, more than 50 residents, elected officials and others shared personal stories, asked questions and raised concerns about perfluorinated compounds during the second half of a daylong meeting at Hatboro-Horsham High School on Wednesday.

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listened, and Region Three Administrator Cosmo Servidio called it an opportunity to learn from each other.

“We are very, very grateful for you taking time out of your busy schedules to help us appreciate the challenges you’re facing, and to help us understand what you need,” he said.

But several of those who spoke said they also wanted action.

“We need laws and we need Pennsylvania, the state, to help us. We are trying to press the EPA and anybody else who is listening that we need change,” said Hope Grosse, who grew up across the street from the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster.

In a statement delivered by her staffer, state Rep. Katharine Watson, R-144, of Warrington, laid out several action items as well.

“As mothers we have bathed our children and mixed their baby formula with this water. My son, who is now an adult, often asks me what his health ramifications will be as a result of the drinking water,” she stated.

Horsham resident Lauren Woehr and several other parents shared those concerns.

Woehr and her husband didn’t know about the contamination when they purchased their township home in 2012. But they did when they found out Woehr was pregnant two years ago. Their daughter is now 16 months old.

“We were very excited, but we were also scared,” Woehr said. “The thought that those chemicals were already in me when I formed her, when I nursed her, that I don’t know what effects they’re going to have on her as she gets older … is absolutely terrifying to me.”

Woehr said she wanted to see blood testing done on a wider scale than is currently happening as part of a state pilot study that began earlier this summer.

Robert Weiner lives in New Britain so he wasn’t part of the study area, but he retired from the Navy after serving for almost five years on the Willow Grove base. He drank the water and said he now wonders if health conditions he’s experienced since are related.

“They don’t offer monitoring for us. They don’t,” he said. “Who’s looking out for the veterans right now? Who?”

Colleen Haines said her family also was hoping they would be selected for the study.

Her parents, who live in Horsham, both have health issues — her father wasn’t able to attend the meeting, she said, because he was undergoing dialysis as a result of stage-four kidney failure. And at least four of their five daughters, including Haines, have been diagnosed with thyroid conditions and other health issues.

“This is why I’m pissed,” Haines said.

Her parents had their well tested in 2004, but there was no EPA health advisory limit at the time, and the chemicals weren’t included in the results. The situation was different a decade later.

The well exceeded the EPA limit for PFOS and PFOA, and their parents were connected to the public water system.

But now they have to pay for water, Haines said, and she’s concerned they may face “astronomical bills” as a result of the contamination.

Horsham Council President Gregory Nesbitt said he was glad the township didn’t wait to address its water supply after the EPA lowered its health advisory limit two years ago.

“We no longer felt secure or safe. So we set our own level. We went to non-detect,” he said. But it’s come at a cost to customers, he added.

Nesbitt and others said the state or federal government should set standards for the chemicals that are lower than the current health advisory limit, and there should be even lower standards for communities such as Horsham that already have been exposed to higher amounts.

If EPA won’t take action, Pennsylvania must, said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“We needed standards yesterday. Clean water is our constitutional right,” she said, as those in attendance began to clap. “Look it up.”

Michael McGee, executive director of the Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority, took it a step further and said he would like to see PFOA and PFOS be listed as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act or Superfund. He also said the government should take responsibility for the cleanup of the chemicals.

“Sources of PFAS remain on the base, in the water and in the soil, and they must be remediated as part of this plan,” he said, referring to the former Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and the active Horsham Air Guard Station.

The military recently began addressing contaminated soil on the base and storm water runoff, but McGee and several other speakers said more needs to be done about it.

The meeting concluded early after all the speakers who pre-registered or signed up during the meeting had an opportunity. EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Director Peter Grevatt added that he felt the meeting was “constructive and instructive,” and Servidio said he appreciated the speakers’ input.

“We have heard you,” he said. “And I assure you that we will continue to work with all the communities that are affected.”

 

Learn more

Perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFAS, are unregulated chemicals popping up in the water supplies of millions of Americans. Different forms of the chemicals have existed since the 1950s, and have been used in products such as nonstick cookware, waterproofing, food packaging and firefighting foams.

However, concerns about health impacts from the chemicals have only become publicly widespread in the past 15 years. The increased scrutiny came to a head locally when high amounts of the chemicals were discovered in area water supplies serving tens of thousands of residents in Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The worst contamination was discovered near military bases where the firefighting foams were used in Warminster, Horsham and Warrington. Unrelated contamination has been found in the Doylestown and Pennridge areas, as well as other parts of the county.

Now residents and experts wonder if their exposure to the chemicals could cause illness, and whether or not the federal government is doing enough to protect Americans from the chemicals. In an attempt to address concerns, the EPA is hosting a series of community engagement sessions in impacted communities across the country, including our local towns.

 

 

 

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