HARRISBURG—Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) is calling on the Commonwealth to sue the Department of the U.S. Navy to force it to clean up water systems in Montgomery County contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFC) and provide blood tests and a health study for affected residents.
The National Institutes of Health has linked PFCs to bladder cancer and other maladies and while a report released earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health found no cancer cluster, it did find, “Statistically significant increases in cancer incidence were found for bladder, myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and testis for different time periods, genders, and ZIP codes reviewed.”
The chemicals entered the water systems due to firefighting training activities at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station – Joint Reserve Base in Horsham Township.
“As more townships discover levels of PFCs in their drinking water, this is becoming a growing dilemma for our families,” Stephens said. “It’s time the federal government step in and do what’s right. If it takes a lawsuit to accomplish that then that’s how we should proceed.”
Warrington has now followed Horsham and Warminster in adopting a policy of having no detectable levels of PFC’s in local drinking water.
Stephens has also renewed his call that the Department of Environmental Protection adopt zero-PFC levels statewide. PFCs include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which have been found in the local public water system.
Twice in two years the federal government informed the people of Horsham that their public well water exceeded acceptable levels of PFOA and PFOS contaminants. Both have been linked to several health issues, which forced Horsham Water and Sewer Authority to twice take public water wells offline to remain compliant with federal standards.
Earlier this year, upon learning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no longer believed its previous standards were appropriate, Stephens was the first public official to call for carbon filters to be placed on public water wells serving Horsham Township, as well as blood tests and a health study. He has since been joined by Gov. Tom Wolf; U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey; and Congressmen Brendan Boyle, Patrick Meehan and Mike Fitzpatrick in calling for more action from the federal government.
“We have no idea how long and to what extent we have been exposed to these chemicals,” Stephens said. “That’s why it’s critical we do all we can to remove all detectable levels of these contaminants from the water flowing into our homes and being consumed by families.”
In July, Stephens secured $10 million in the new state budget to make necessary infrastructure improvements, like carbon filters, to remove PFCs from the public water supply in Horsham. The United States Navy has agreed to pay for carbon filters on five of the 15 public wells contaminated by the chemicals.
The grant money will be provided to Horsham through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (Pennvest), which is dedicated to funding systems for providing clean drinking water to the Commonwealth.
“But not all communities have the ability to adopt such policies because many lack their own water authority,” Stephens said. “Vermont and New Jersey have their own standards. We should, too.”
Studies, including those done by Harvard University researcher Philippe Grandjean, looked at the effects of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) on the immune systems of children. The study concluded that young children exposed to the chemical had a reduced immune response to vaccinations. He also found that as the children grew older, they had other problems as well, including more colds and stomach problems.
“We must remove all PFCs from our drinking water,” Stephens said. “And it’s time the Navy fulfill its obligations to our communities.”
Representative Todd Stephens
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster