News Feature | March 14, 2017

Residents File Personal Claims Against Firefighting Foam Manufacturers

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

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Current and former residents of Bucks and Montgomery Counties, PA, near Philadelphia, have joined together in a mass tort lawsuit against six manufacturers of firefighting foams dealing with personal injury claims. A writ of summons was filed last month in Montgomery County court on behalf of the 461 individuals who either had worked or served at a trio of military bases.

The Bucks County Courier Times reported that, “the foams are believed to have been used for decades at military bases in the area, and also are believed to be the source of regional drinking water contamination by unregulated chemicals PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid)....”

Earlier this year, “under co-operative agreements signed with neighboring townships, the Navy has paid to connect homes with contaminated private wells to public water systems.”

Navy officials had said during that time that the department agreed to pay $9.3 million for clean-up operations in Warminster, Bucks County.

In January, according to piece written by the Times, officials with the U.S. Navy delivered an update on an investigation of the chemicals coming from a former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster. At that time officials said that 54 private wells had been tested in Northampton and that only three were found to contain PFOS and PFOA with levels greater than 70 ppt.

The homes in that area received bottled water until the Navy could complete their investigation into whether or not they were at fault.

The Times reported that since 2014, “22 public drinking water wells and more than 200 private wells in Bucks and Montgomery counties have been shut down due to contamination by unregulated chemicals PFOS and PFOA, affecting the drinking water of more than 100,000 people.”

The after-effects of foam usage is nothing new to residents of certain towns and communities in the country. Just last June, two former Navy sites were connected to drinking water tainted by harmful chemicals. NBC reported then that earlier in the year, residents in Warminster, Horsham, and Warrington were offered free bottled water by the government after the U.S. EPA issued new guidelines for what they had considered safe levels of two unregulated chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, in the public water supply.

Those chemicals were in firefighting foam used at Willow Grove Naval Air Station and Warminster’s Naval Air Warfare Center.

Image credit: "170127-N-NB544-003, January 2017" Naval Surface Warriors © 2017 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/