News Feature | September 19, 2016

Philly Suburb Wants Military To Pay PFC Costs

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

pentagon reg new.jpg

A Philadelphia suburb is picking a fight with the U.S. military over water contaminated by defunct naval air bases.

“Acknowledging the frustration of Horsham residents following a recent increase in water bills, the township council on Wednesday night passed a resolution calling on the military to fully foot the cost of water contamination,” The Intelligencer reported.

The measure passed unanimously. “The resolution tonight states that the Department of Defense pay for these costs and reimburse our water authority,” township manager William Walker said, per the report. “That resolution, along with a letter from the township, will be mailed tomorrow afternoon.”

Residents are frustrated with the news that their water bills are going to rise due to the cost of cleaning up perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). “The authority's board recently approved a surcharge of $23.96 per quarter for the average customer,” The Intelligencer previously reported.

The military has agreed to pay part of the cost of addressing the tainted water, including $9 million for filtration technology on tainted public wells.

“But in June, the water authority enacted a short-term plan to eliminate the chemicals to undetectable levels by the end of the year. It requires buying large quantities of water from neighboring North Wales Water Authority, for which the military has not agreed to pay,” the report said.

Officials from the township and the water authority are lobbying the Defense Department about compensation, the report said. “We've been repeating this endlessly ... that we expect to be reimbursed,” Walker said.

Over the last two years, Pennsylvania’s Bucks and Montgomery Counties have closed 16 wells due to PFC contamination, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The pollution leached into the water supply from firefighting foam used by the military.

PFCs can be challenging to treat. In the environment, they are resistant to typical environmental degradation processes.

“Because of their unique physicochemical properties (strong fluorine-carbon bond and low vapor pressure), PFOS and PFOA resist most conventional in situ treatment technologies, such as direct oxidation,” according to the U.S. EPA.

“Ex situ treatments including activated carbon filters, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis units have been shown to remove PFCs from water; however, incineration of the concentrated waste would be needed for the complete destruction of PFCs,” the agency said.

The EPA issued a health advisory in May about PFC exposure as various cities wage high-profile battles against the compounds, including Hoosick Falls, NY, and factory towns across the country. PFCs are industrial chemicals, and research has tied them to cancer.

A bipartisan group of congressmen wrote to Steven Iselin, acting assistant secretary of the Navy, this week urging the military to cover the costs incurred by ratepayers. 

"While our municipal water providers are seeking every means possible to provide safe drinking water, the residents in these areas cannot be expected to bear the excess cost. I respectfully request the Navy fund measures which protect constituents from costs incurred as a result of remediation efforts implemented to ensure they are provided with safe, clean drinking water," said the letter, signed by Pennsylvania Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan, both Republicans, and Brendan Boyle, a Democrat.

A bipartisan group of congressmen wrote to Steven Iselin, acting assistant secretary of the Navy, this week urging the military to cover the costs incurred by ratepayers. 

"While our municipal water providers are seeking every means possible to provide safe drinking water, the residents in these areas cannot be expected to bear the excess cost. I respectfully request the Navy fund measures which protect constituents from costs incurred as a result of remediation efforts implemented to ensure they are provided with safe, clean drinking water," said the letter, signed by Pennsylvania Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan, both Republicans, and Brendan Boyle, a Democrat.  

To read more about PFC contamination visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "The Pentagon," David B. Gleason © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/