Pollution from Naval Bases Threaten Local Drinking Water

Pollution from Naval Bases Threaten Local Drinking WaterA chemical foam used to fight fires on military installation bases in Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington, Pennsylvania for the past 40 years is being blamed for contaminating the drinking water of more than 100,000 residents. Since 2014, close to 175 public and private wells have been closed after perfluorooctane sulfanate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) were found in the water. A total of four private and class action lawsuits have been filed representing over 700,000 people in the affected region, including present and former public water consumers, renters, and present and former residents that utilized the water from private wells.

The plaintiffs are asking for blood testing and medical monitoring for residents in Bucks County and Montgomery County impacted by the tainted water. The lawsuits are also asking for compensation to cover the costs associated with alternative water supplies, punitive damages, and decreased property values. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking ongoing testing and monitoring of private wells in the area as well as installation of filtration systems and ongoing maintenance of these systems.

The Side Effects of Exposure

Those affected by the contaminated water worry about the long-term health effects that can occur from exposure to PFOAS and PFOS. Testicular cancer and kidney cancer have been linked to exposure. The lawsuits claim that the manufacturers of the chemical foam should have known that their product would break down into PFOS and PFOA, and should have included a warning of its dangers on the product’s packaging. Residents affected by the contaminated water include those in Horsham, Warminster, Warrington, Ivyland, Hatboro, and Ambler as well as military and civilian employees of the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster.

The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a water sample test of every water company serving more than 10,000 people across the nation during the period from 2013 through 2015. Warminster, Warrington, and Horsham were included on the top 10 list of communities with the highest level of PSOF and PSOA in the country. Bucks County and Montgomery County in Pennsylvania were in the highest ranking for contamination. A water sample taken from Horsham Air Guard Station contained the highest level of PFOS ever detected in drinking water.

As residents and others affected by the contaminated water wait for their lawsuits to be settled, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered little hope that a study on the long-term health effects of PFOA and PFOS would be forthcoming. A spokesperson for the CDC estimated that a national study of this magnitude would take approximately five to eight years to complete at a cost of $20 to $30 million. There is no such funding currently available for a study of this magnitude.