Navy Set to Answer Questions About Contaminated Water in Montgomery and Bucks Counties

The former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and present day Horsham Air Guard Station is shown March 10, 2016, in Horsham, Pa. The military is checking whether chemicals from firefighting foam might have contaminated groundwater at hundreds of sites nationwide and potentially tainted drinking water, the Defense Department said. AP

The U.S. military and government agencies will answer questions this week for people in Montgomery and Bucks counties who are worried about their drinking water and their health.

Last week, residents in Warminster, Horsham and Warrington were offered free bottled water by the government after the Environmental Protection Agency issued new guidelines for what’s considered safe levels of two unregulated chemicals -- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (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.

Testing results for Horsham Township’s water supply, made public Monday, were deemed safe. State Representative Todd Stephens said results complied with the EPA’s new, more stringent standards which are now 70 parts per trillion instead of 600 parts per trillion.

While bottled water is no longer being given out to Horsham residents on the public water supply, the number of private wells affected has doubled, according to a report. The Navy continues to provide water to people with private wells that exceed the new levels for PFOS/PFOA.

“The new more stringent EPA standards serve to validate the need for a health risk assessment and blood testing so we can be informed about our exposure level and protect our families if necessary,” Stephens, who lives in Horsham, stated in a press release Monday.

Concerns about contaminated groundwater on and around the military facilities have grown in recent years as more information was revealed about the harmful effects of PFOS/PFOA toxicity, which include links to cancers, low birth weights and liver problems. More than a thousand people -- enlisted and civilians -- have joined a private Facebook group to share information primarily about health concerns. Many worked at Willow Grove and are now battling cancer. A good number of others are family members whose loved ones have died of cancers. In the last week, some have written heartwrenching accounts of their diagnoses to Senator Stewart Greenleaf who expects to host a meeting of all local, federal and state agencies involved this week at his district office.

"We must do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety and health of the people in these communities," said Greenleaf.

The open house informational sessions are being held at the Horsham Township Community Center at 1025 Horsham Road Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 5 - 7 p.m. and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Here’s what you can expect, according to the public notice put out by Horsham Township:

Attending these public information sessions will be representatives from the U.S. Navy, Air National Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection, Montgomery and Bucks County Health Departments, and local water authorities. These sessions will be held in an Open House format with multiple information displays staffed by the various agency representatives, who will be available to talk one-on-one with residents and answer questions about PFOA and PFOS. Residents are encouraged to attend either session; the presented information will be the same at both sessions.