For the past three years, residents of Warminster, Warrington and Horsham have been paying extra on their water bills, adding up to millions of dollars of costs to filter firefighting chemicals from their drinking water. It’s been an ongoing frustration and point of contention, and a perceived injustice by many community members.
Gov. Tom Wolf dropped by Thursday to join with state and local lawmakers in trying to lighten the load. “Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right of every Pennsylvanian,” Wolf said. “Today I am trying to lessen two undue burdens to these communities.”
Wolf then announced the state will provide $3.8 million to support and offset the cost of water treatment efforts in the communities. The money will also be used to help connect some private well owners in Warwick whose water is contaminated by the chemicals to the public water system.
In addition, Wolf renewed his call for the Environmental Protection Agency to establish an enforceable, nationwide drinking water standard for PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act. “The federal government played a big role in causing these issues and they should be stepping up in a much bigger way,” Wolf said. “We need the White House and Congress to get serious about addressing this issue.”
The chemicals in question are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They were used for decades at the former Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and Naval Air Warfare Center Warminster, resulting in the contamination of groundwater and streams in Warminster, Warrington, Horsham, and some surrounding towns.
Between 2014 and 2016, it was discovered that PFAS had contaminated about 15 public water wells in the three townships at some of the highest levels in the nation. The U.S. Navy and Air National Guard took responsibility and paid for large filtration systems for any wells that contained PFOS and PFOA — the two most known PFAS chemicals — above a 70 part per trillion health advisory put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. That effort, along with connecting some 250 private wells to public water, has cost the military about $38 million to date.