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PA DEP opens PFOA, PFOS investigation in parts of Perkasie, East and West Rockhill By Kyle Bagenstose, staff writer Bucks County Courier Times

PA DEP opens PFOA, PFOS investigation in parts of Perkasie, East and West Rockhill

KYLE BAGENSTOSE

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday it is opening an investigation into perfluorinated compound contamination in the East Rockhill area.

The township’s two drinking water wells, which are owned and operated by the North Penn Water Authority, were shut down in late September after PFOA and PFOS were detected near or above a 70 parts per trillion advisory limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Now the DEP will begin sampling private drinking water wells located within 1 mile of the North Penn Authority wells. A DEP map depicts the epicenter of the investigation area as located near the intersection of Ridge Run and Stone Edge roads in East Rockhill.

“Private well owners and community well owners serving highly sensitive populations, such as nursing homes and day cares … will be contacted to schedule water sampling for PFCs,” a statement from the DEP said. “Initial sampling results will form the foundation for further analysis of the extent of contamination in the area, potential remediation options and long-term solutions for residents.”

DEP community relations coordinator Virginia Cain said Thursday that approximately 300 private wells have been identified for sampling so far. Questionnaires, including a section granting permission for the DEP to sample, will be sent to the well owners over the next several weeks, Cain said. The speed at which the agency receives responses will determine when actual sampling will begin, she added.

Residents of any home or facility where PFOA and PFOS are detected above 70 ppt will be provided bottled water, according to the statement. The investigation and any bottled water provisions will be paid for by the DEP’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.

The DEP’s map shows that much of the investigation area is made up of undeveloped land in East Rockhill. However, several housing developments are within the area, as are small portions of West Rockhill and Perkasie.

In East Rockhill, one public well was taken offline on Sept. 12, after testing results showed it contained 117 ppt of the chemicals: 110 ppt of PFOS, and 7 ppt of PFOA.

The other well contained 65 ppt of the combined chemicals: 57 ppt of PFOS and 8 ppt of PFOA.

Lindsay Hughes, community relations coordinator with the North Penn Water Authority, confirmed Thursday that both wells were taken offline in September and that an emergency interconnection with the Perkasie Regional Authority was opened.

Hughes said the East Rockhill system serves approximately 194 customers. Those customers are now receiving 100 percent of their water from the Perkasie system, she added.

The number of East Rockhill customers pales in comparison to the 34,000 customers served by the larger North Penn Main System.

Hughes said all of the wells in the Main System have been tested and that the chemicals are “not a problem” in that system. An annual water quality report for the Main System says that 85 percent of the system’s water comes from the Forest Park Treatment Plant, a state-of-the-art facility which officials say does not produce water containing the chemicals. The other 15 percent originates in 12 groundwater wells.

North Penn Water Authority also operates a water system in Sellersville, but Hughes said in September that the system gets all of its water from the Main System.

Hughes said Main System customers are “not affected” by the East Rockhill wells. She added Thursday that there have been no increases in costs passed onto customers due to the contamination and closures.

Hughes said the emergency connection to Perkasie is a short-term plan, and the authority would be evaluating long-term solutions.

Nick Fretz, manager of the Perkasie authority, said there are also no expectations of any change in service to that authority’s customers due to the opening of the interconnection.

Perkasie had been tested for the chemicals: Results on the system’s website show the chemicals were found in amounts ranging from 4.3 to 14.5 ppt combined. That’s well below the EPA’s 70 ppt health advisory level.

Levels in public water in West Rockhill are also likely low. Residents there receive drinking water from the Perkasie and North Penn systems, as well as the Telford Borough Authority.

Telford borough Manager Mark Fouriner said Thursday that the authority did test for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water at a community center. The test showed 10 ppt of PFOA and PFOS combined, which Fournier called a “small trace,” and said that gave the borough confidence that levels are low throughout its water system.

The so-called “Ridge Run” investigation is the second the DEP is conducting in the area.

It is also conducting a similar investigation, dubbed “Easton Road,” into contamination near the Cross Keys well in Plumstead, which was shut off in May after it tested above the 70 ppt lifetime health advisory level set by the EPA that same month. Sources of contamination have not been identified for either investigation.

The DEP’s Cain said Thursday that the agency is currently “validating the data” on initial sampling in the Doylestown area. After that is completed, more sampling will take place “to include newly expanded areas based on previous results,” Cain said.

A third sampling program will retest wells where the chemicals were detected between 40 and 69 ppt, Cain said.

The DEP has dedicated a webpage to posting results from the investigations and other information on PFOA and PFOS.

Just The Facts

Since 2014, 22 public drinking water wells and more than 150 private wells in Bucks and Montgomery counties have been shut down due to contamination by unregulated chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), affecting the drinking water of more than 100,000 people.

The bulk of the contamination is occurring near a trio of former and current military bases in Horsham, Warminster and Warrington, and is suspected to have originated in firefighting foams used on those bases as far back as the early 1970s. Contamination from unknown sources has closed wells in Doylestown, Chalfont, East Rockhill and other communities.

This news organization has been investigating and writing extensively on the topic, telling the stories of local people who believe they’ve been sickened by the chemicals, speaking with health experts on potential effects of exposure, and examining actions taken by local, state and federal agencies.

 

Kyle Bagenstose: 215-949-4211; email: kbagenstose@calkins.com; Twitter: @KyleBagenstose

 

 

Erik A. Ross

Associate

Milliron & Goodman Government Relations, LLC.

200 North 3rd Street

Suite 1500

Harrisburg, PA 17101

Phone:  717-232-5322

Cell:  717-574-3963

erik@millirongoodman.com

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