Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick appeared before a congressional subcommittee Thursday morning to request that Defense Department money be directed toward funding for a comprehensive health study of Bucks and Montgomery county residents affected by high levels of perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFOS and PFOA, found in drinking water.
Fitzpatrick, R-8, also asked the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to allocate money for the remediation effort of public and private wells contaminated by the compounds.
"The Department of Defense should work with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to conduct a comprehensive study related to the long-term health impacts of PFOA and PFOS," Fitzpatrick said in his testimony. "My constituents have a right to safe, clean drinking water and they deserve to know if PFOS and PFOA have compromised their long-term health."
Fitzpatrick's request is the latest in a continuing effort by federal, state and local lawmakers to have the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy pay for the cleanup of the tainted water and the continued health monitoring of about 70,000 residents in the neighborhoods that used the water.
The chemicals were present in the firefighting foam used at three military bases in Bucks and Montgomery counties: the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster, the former Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, in Horsham, part of which is now the active Horsham Air Guard Station. It has been estimated that nearly 70,000 residents in Horsham, Warrington and Warminster have been exposed to levels of PFOS/PFOA that exceed the EPA's health advisory limit, originally set at 400 parts per trillion (ppt) and revised in 2016 to 70 ppt.
"The military does not dispute its responsibility for the well contamination in Horsham, Warrington, and Warminster areas of my district," Fitzpatrick said Thursday in his testimony. "It is suspected that high levels of PFOS and PFOA originated from firefighting foams used on the Naval and Air National Guard bases since the 1970s."
The request for appropriations comes just weeks after Fitzpatrick sent a letter to the Bucks County Commissioners signaling his intent to introduce legislation that would set aside money for similar purposes. That bill is still in the works, according to Fitzpatrick's office, and Thursday's testimony was another avenue to get the funding. Fitzpatrick's district includes all of Bucks County and part of Eastern Montgomery County.
Since the detection of high levels of PFOS and PFOA, 22 public drinking water wells and more than 150 private wells have been shut down in Warminster, Horsham and Warrington. The Navy has spent more than $19 million to pay for Granular Activated Carbon filtration systems on public wells, bottled water for homes until they could get access to clean water and to connect private well users to the public system.
New filters may reduce the PFOS/PFOA levels to below the EPA standard, but Horsham, Warrington and Warminster officials each decided to purchase more water from the North Wales Water Authority, which has no detectable levels of the pollutant. The new supply caused water bills to increase, a difference that the Department of Defense has declined to reimburse.
"I urge the committee to appropriate funding that allows the Department of Defense to fund the cleanup and remediation of PFOS and PFOA," Fitzpatrick said to the subcommittee. "While the U.S. Navy and Air National Guard have worked in conjunction with the affected municipalities in supplying clean water to residents, the decision for public water suppliers to purchase uncontaminated water from the surrounding communities resulted in the water customer bearing the cost."