Pa. bills aim to regulate drinking water near PFAS-contaminated air bases

Jim Melwert
June 24, 2019 - 11:27 am

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HORSHAM, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A package of bills addressing a chemical linked to major health issues — which have been found to pollute water around military bases, like the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove — has been moved unanimously at the federal level. 

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said the bills were moved out of the committee last week.

"It’s a good sign," he said. "(It's) not every day the Republicans and Democrats agree unanimously on almost anything."

The bills would force the EPA to set a national drinking water regulation within two years, and the chemicals would be added to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory list.

The chemicals in question —  perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS — are found in non-stick cookware, fabric treatments, and firefighting foam on military bases, like the Naval Air Station in Willow Grove, which has seeped into the groundwater. The "forever chemicals" can lead to health issues such as increased cholesterol, thyroid problems and, potentially, cancer.

According to a study conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, people who live near military bases retain twice the amount of PFAS than the national average. 

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While Carper believes the bills are a step in the right direction, he said it still doesn’t hold the Department of Defense accountable by tagging the chemicals with a hazardous designation.

"The reason why that’s necessary is because it would help force responsible parties, including the Department of Defense, to pay for cleanups under the Superfund laws," he added, meaning municipalities will continue to foot the bill.