Community members want more than talk from state’s PFAS Action Team

Jay Scott Smith
April 16, 2019 - 12:00 am
Upper Dublin Board Commissioner Gary Scarpello speaks during the public meeting of the state’s PFAS Action Team at Abington High School

Jay Scott Smith/KYW Newsradio

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ABINGTON, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) -- Horsham residents made their voices heard amid frustration over a dangerous chemical found in drinking water.

At special meeting Monday night residents of Horsham and surrounding areas made it clear to members of the state’s "Action Team," tasked with addressing the contamination of water around the Willow Grove Air Base, that they want action and not just talk.

"Little did I know that my family was drinking, bathing, and cooking with contaminated water? We had no idea," said resident Danette Richards.

The chemicals in question perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, can lead to health issues such as increased cholesterol, thyroid problems and potentially cancer, experts say.

Dr. Rachel Levine with the State Department of Health says that tests have been done to figure out the effects of PFAS.

"The department of health did conduct a pilot study to look at people's blood levels,” she said. “We'll be doing a follow up study and then we've applied for a significant grant from the federal government to do a much larger study."

Pennsylvania’s Action Team, which is made up of members of multiple departments, sat for nearly 90 minutes at Abington High School to present their finding to the public. They found that PFAS levels were higher in older men, as well as in those who drank water that was in closer proximity to the military base.

These chemicals, which were used in fire extinguishing foam for years, seeped into the water supply and potentially affected generations of residents.

Residents also took exception to states such as Michigan and nearby New York having more information and expansive testing for the chemical and demanded more action be taken to test for the long term effects of PFAS.

Levine says that this will not be a quick fix and the effects could last for years.

"Lot of different compounds and only a half a dozen or more have been actually studied,” she said. “So this is going to be one of the environmental health issues of our time."