Horsham Township will get $10 million in state funding to clean up drinking water contaminated with chemicals from the now shuttered naval base in Willow Grove.

With that money, local officials will develop steps beyond those taken by the Navy and Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that their drinking water is safe.

Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery) said he fought for the money for his township because he was "increasingly frustrated" with the response from federal agencies.

As Stephens announced the new funding source Thursday morning in Horsham, federal lawmakers were introducing legislation that would authorize the Department of Defense to fund health screenings for residents.

Five public drinking wells have been closed in Horsham since 2014, due to contamination from compounds used in firefighting foams at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station.

The foams - used for decades at naval air bases in Willow Grove, Warminster, and across the country - contain perfluorinated compounds that have seeped into the groundwater and public water system. Two types of those compounds, PFOA and PFOS, have been linked to certain types of cancer, high cholesterol, and other health problems.

Wells with levels of PFOS and PFOA above federal advisories have already been taken off-line. Officials with the EPA and Navy, which are paying for the remediation work, say the water currently flowing from faucets is safe to drink.

But residents and local officials are not convinced. Citing studies about health effects of the compounds and a lack of answers about how much PFOA and PFOS are already in their bloodstreams, many have opted to drink bottled water.

Last month, the Horsham Township Council voted to take additional steps to remove all detectable levels of PFOS and PFOA from their water system, though the EPA says the water is safe to drink.

In the short term, Horsham will purchase water from neighboring water authorities with cleaner water supplies. The additional $10 million in state funds could cover the cost of building carbon filters for all the public wells in Horsham. Carbon filters, already being built by the Navy for some of Horsham's wells, remove all PFOA and PFOS from the water.

"We have no idea how long and to what extent we have been exposed to these chemicals," said Stephens. "That's why it's critical we do all we can to remove all detectable levels of these contaminants from the water flowing into our homes and being consumed by our families."

Stephens said he pushed for money only for Horsham - there was no indication Thursday that Warrington or Warminster would receive similar state funding to clean up their water.

Gov. Wolf said in a statement Thursday that he had been working with Stephens.

His spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, said the state would continue working with area representatives to address issues in other towns should concerns arise.

Officials in Warrington said that they first heard of Horsham's extra funding for water cleanup from local headlines Thursday, and that the township is continuing to explore its own long-term options.

The Warminster Municipal Authority has entered into a long-term agreement to purchase its daily water load from the North Wales Water Authority. The local wells will become "backup supply" to the North Wales water, and the switch to that source is underway, general manager Timothy Hagey wrote in a letter to residents this month.

Also Thursday, U.S. Reps. Patrick Meehan, a Republican, and Brendan Boyle, a Democrat, introduced legislation under which the Department of Defense could fund blood tests for residents in Horsham, Warrington, and Warminster affected by the contaminated water.

The Navy wrote this month to lawmakers who had requested blood tests, stating that they would not fund them. The congressmen said their bill could be a solution because existing law does not authorize the military to cover the testing.

"The Department of Defense must set the correct precedent by doing the right thing and providing health screenings in addition to providing safe drinking water for our impacted communities," Boyle said in a statement. "This legislation makes clear they have no excuse not to do so."


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