In the laundry room of a spacious two-story Colonial home Tuesday morning in Montgomery County, a specialist ran tap water out of the faucet and collected it in clear plastic sample bottles.
Jerry and Ann Henner watched, wondering aloud what might be found in the water when it goes to the lab for testing.
Theirs was the first house out of 116 set to be tested in Horsham Township during the next two weeks for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), chemicals linked to cancer that leached into the groundwater from two nearby former Navy bases.
"I'm sure all the neighbors are worried about it too, so when I get my test back, I can tell all the neighbors," Jerry Henner said.
As wells were deemed contaminated and closed in Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington Townships, questions and concerns swirled among residents, along with demands for water testing.
Horsham Township decided in July to install filters on its working wells, sample water in homes, and bring in 1.2 million gallons of water a day from North Wales. It is spending about $70,000 on the testing. The samples are being collected by a private contractor and shipped to a lab in Indiana.
"Horsham is doing a great job," Jerry Henner said. "I just want to know what's in the water."
He and his wife, who have lived in their home for 13 years, said they had not been concerned enough about the PFCs to stop drinking tap water but thought they would volunteer for water testing when they saw a notice on the township website.
Ann Henner said that even if it is determined that the amount of the chemicals in their water is below the current Environmental Protection Agency guideline, she, like many, has other worries related to the water crisis.
"Eventually, we're going to be downsizing, and I'm concerned it'll lower the property values," she said.
The chemicals were used in firefighting foams and stored at the Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center and the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove. They seeped into the groundwater, and contamination of surrounding water supplies was first discovered in 2014. When the EPA lowered the standard for the amount of chemical considered safe for drinking water earlier this year, more wells in the three townships had to be taken off-line.
Since then, politicians, lawyers, and residents have become involved, attempting to take further safety measures.
Warminster Township is now also pulling water from the North Wales supply, and Warrington Township supervisors voted last week to transfer the township's entire water supply onto that system.
Horsham testing will be complete by next Friday. Results will take about four weeks and will be posted on the township website as they come in, Township Manager Bill Walker said.
Of the 7,700 public water customers in Horsham, 525 volunteered for the testing, he said. The township is expecting the results to show very low levels of the chemical.
"If it comes in good, then it builds the public's trust and confidence in the public water system," Walker said. "If it's bad news, we've got to deal with it."