Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday that the state will spend $3.8 million to help defray the cost of treating water tainted with hazardous chemicals in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
The money, which Wolf said will come from several sources, will go to Horsham, Warminster, Warrington, and Warwick, four communities heavily affected by PFAS, which has leached into the region’s groundwater and drinking water for years.
“Access to clean drinking water is a fundamental right of every Pennsylvanian,” Wolf said at a news conference in Horsham, where he criticized what he called a lax response from the federal government on establishing a safe drinking water standard for PFAS.
Cleaning the contaminated water in Bucks and Montgomery Counties has been an expensive process, authorities said, and resulted in water bill surcharges for Horsham and Warminster. The state funding will offset those costs, and will provide money for residents with PFAS-tainted well water who need to connect to the public water supply.
“Since they didn’t cause it, they shouldn’t have to pay to clean it up,” Wolf said of residents affected by the PFAS-tainted water.
PFAS contamination has plagued parts of the two counties since 2016, when it was discovered in the public drinking supply and private wells.
Across the country, the chemicals have seeped into drinking water near military bases that used firefighting foams and manufacturing plants that made products with PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals have been linked to cancers, thyroid disease, and other serious health problems, and are found in nonstick cookware, food wrappings, and other everyday items.
» READ MORE: The Inquirer’s PFAS coverage
Wolf formed a state task force to examine the issue and the state Department of Environmental Protection is working on creating drinking water standards and testing water statewide for the chemicals.
However, residents have clamored for swifter governmental action. The contamination has caused alarm in communities with tainted water about potential health effects. Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington residents who submitted to a blood test last year received results that showed they had substantially higher levels of PFAS in their blood compared with the national average.
In 2016, State Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery) secured $10 million for the Horsham Water and Sewer Authority to remove PFAS from the public water supply. In March, Wolf announced the state would give $5 million to the Warminster Municipal Authority and $3 million to the Warrington Township Water and Sewer Department.
The $3.8 million announced Thursday comes in addition to $18 million already dedicated to the cleanup effort, Wolf said.
“The goal is to establish a cleanup plan that will result in every Pennsylvanian free from PFAS contamination,” Wolf said.