Warrington legislator hopes bill can force military’s hand in well cleanups
May 15, 2017
Types : In the News
The military and the Bucks and Montgomery communities whose drinking water was polluted by chemicals used at area bases have reached an impasse. State Rep. Kathy Watson, R-144, of Warrington, believes her new bill can break the deadlock.
In Warrington, Horsham, and Warminster, 16 public wells owned by three water authorities have been closed in the past three years due to contamination with perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. The unregulated, toxic chemicals were used for decades in firefighting foams at a trio of former and current military bases, where the chemicals sank into the water table and were sucked back up into public wells as well as hundreds of private wells.
Timothy Bergère, a Doylestown-area environmental attorney retained by the Warrington and Warminster water authorities, said the bill is designed to navigate tricky legal waters that make the military immune, in many cases, from lawsuits.
Up to this point, Bergère said, the money spent by the military to clean up PFOA and PFOS in Pennsylvania is the result of the EPA issuing an order under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. That order requires filtration or alternative water for any sources exceeding 70 ppt.
“That’s really been the driving force to make the government come forward with money,” Bergère said.
Adding PFOS and PFOA to Pennsylvania’s list of hazardous substances would make the state’s law more stringent than the federal law. And that, Bergère said, might be enough to win any legal challenge.
The Pennsylvania DEP previously told this news organization it doesn’t have the researchers or scientific staff to set a state drinking water standard, so it typically relies on the EPA’s levels. But Bergère said the DEP was given a wealth of supportive scientific material, such as the New Jersey proposal, that would provide a legal defense if the state set a lower standard.
Additionally, Bergère said, the state’s Cleanup Standards Scientific Advisory Board is a governmental body that has offered soil and groundwater “guidance” levels on hundreds of other chemicals.
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