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Horsham mulls long-term water cleanup plans By Kyle Bagenstose, staff writer for the Bucks County Courier Times on 9/27/2016

Horsham mulls long-term water cleanup plans

KYLE BAGENSTOSE

Bucks County Courier Times

  • 16 hrs ago
  • 9/27/2016

http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/horsham-pfos/horsham-mulls-long-term-water-cleanup-plans/article_aa1b3b14-99f7-5c6b-9105-0056eeb16c21.html?thisjustin

If any of the several dozen Horsham residents attending Monday night’s joint meeting with township and water authority officials had been mulling a run at local office, they might be rethinking it after seeing the complexity of the decision facing the town’s leaders.

The town’s five council members were presented with six possible long-term plans to eliminate perfluorinated compounds from the town’s drinking water. Each had varying degrees of complexity, including one-time capital costs, long-term maintenance costs, and uncertainties of how regulations may change, technologies may improve, and new funding sources might appear.

The key takeaway? Regardless of which plan the town’s officials ultimately approve, customers of the Horsham Water & Sewer Authority could be paying an additional $45 to $191 a year for their water in order to ensure it is entirely free of unregulated chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

And that’s on top of the recent creation of a surcharge costing about $100 for the authority’s average customer.

Monday’s meeting was the second such event: officials also attended a similar meeting in June, in which they voted on a short-term plan to remove the chemicals below 1 part per trillion (ppt) by the end of the year. The meeting this week presented options to achieve those levels in the long-term, after current contracts for purchasing clean water expire and as the township’s population continues to grow.

The chemicals have forced the closure of five of the township’s public drinking water wells and scores of private wells in the past two years. They are suspected to have originated in firefighting foams used at the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base and active Horsham Air Guard station.

The presence of the chemicals has also stoked concern for local residents, as they have been linked by some studies to a variety of health effects, including some cancers.

The military has already agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars to Horsham, as well as similarly-affected Warrington and Warminster, to help local water authorities provide water that contains the chemicals below 70 parts per trillion (70 ppt). That’s the limit recommended by an Environmental Protection Agency health advisory.

But citing concerns from local residents and continuing debate among experts about what safe levels of the chemicals actually are, Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington are in varying stages of implementing plans to reduce the level of the chemicals in tap water to below detectable levels, which is currently about 6 ppt combined.

The disagreement was at the heart of Monday’s presentation of six possible plans. The options ranged from purchasing all water from neighboring water supplies to placing carbon filtration systems on all wells, or combinations somewhere in between.

The cheapest alternative for rate payers called for placing filtration systems on the highest producing water sources — five paid for by the Navy and six by the township– and using a $10 million state grant to pay for much of the infrastructure. But it would also include long-term maintenance costs for filters and couldn’t be implemented as quickly as a plan to simply purchase all of the township’s water from its neighbors.

But a plan to buy all of the town’s water was by far the most expensive, and would mean the town would lose all control over its water quality and rates in the future.

Additional, “outside the box” options had their own set of complications: creating a pair of central filtration systems to filter all of the township’s 15 water wells would also be costly and involve digging up long stretches of town to install nine miles of raw water pipes. A plan to try and identify locations to drill a new well wasn’t even fleshed out because, officials said, the contamination of groundwater by the chemicals appears to be too widespread.

Officials added that both the township and water authority continue to pressure the military to pay for all costs, including those to clean water below the 70 ppt EPA recommendation. They suggested that the creation of a state regulation requiring a lower drinking water standard for the chemicals would be one way, as the military has said it is limited by law from providing a response more protective than federal or state regulations.

Ultimately, council members said the plan would be posted to the township’s website for the public to consider as they mull over the best option.

The meeting also comes on the heels of the release of tap water sampling by the Horsham authority last week. Through a sampling program initiated in the summer, the authority tested the tap water of 115 homes located throughout Horsham.

On Friday, the authority released a list of results for the first 65 households. Taken in the latter part of August, the results show that every home tested had some level of the chemicals, ranging from 4 to 37 ppt. The average result was 18.4 ppt, with 20 percent of homes having 25 ppt or greater, and 20 percent having 13 ppt or less.

The results of the analysis, posted on the authority’s website, did not provide house numbers but did provide street names and neighborhoods. The analysis appeared to show higher levels in neighborhoods near the bases and shuttered public wells; all four of the samples taken from the Meetinghouse Village neighborhood, just east of the base, contained 21 ppt or greater of the chemicals.

Further to the southeast, two samples taken from the Oak Hill neighborhood each registered above 30 ppt; a 33 ppt reading on Crestview Road, and a 37 ppt reading on Beatrice Avenue, the highest amount detected by the survey and more than half of the EPA’s recommended limit.

The Oak Hill samples were two of just six readings above 30 ppt. The other four were taken from New Road, in the Evergreen Terrace neighborhood; Aspen Lane, in Hidden Creek Estates; Birch Avenue, in Horsham Heights; and Diane Avenue, in Clearbrook Village.

According to the Horsham’s authority website, additional results will be posted as they are received. The authority also says it plans to re-test the wells next year to determine the effectiveness of its clean-up plan.

 

 

 

 

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