Township officials in East Rockhill and West Rockhill say a state-planned solution for remedying groundwater contamination at local residential properties is inadequate and unacceptable.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced in late April that it planned to install whole-house water filtration systems at 12 affected residential properties.
Testing showed concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory level (HAL) of 70 parts per trillion in the Ridge Run area, which covers homes in East Rockhill and West Rockhill. The highest combined concentration of PFOS and PFOA was 16,360 ppt, DEP said in a report.
Municipal officials panned the DEP’s decision, saying that locals should be hooked up to public water to ensure what comes out of their spouts is safe.
“The position of the township is for public water,” said Greg Lippincott, township manager for West Rockhill. “We are dismayed that DEP did not take the action desired of residents, East Rockhill and West Rockhill.”
East Rockhill Township Manager Marianne Morano sent DEP a letter expressing similar sentiments.
Morano noted that Perkasie Regional Authority has provided DEP with plans to provide public water connection to residences that are above the 70 ppt at a price of $1.9 million.
“Public water connection would serve to decrease movement of the PFAS plume, keep PFAS contaminated carbon filters out of landfills, (and) provide drinkable water that does not require regular maintenance by the residents,” Morano said.
Morano added that the public water option would be “a permanent, long-term solution. On behalf of the East Rockhill Township Board of Supervisors and the blameless East and West Rockhill residents affected by the PFAS contamination, we request DEP…provide a permanent, long-term solution and give residents uncorrupted water with public water connection.”
DEP plans to install filtration systems at affected homes within the next month or two, said department Spokeswoman Virginia Cain. Projected cost for the systems is $102,860.
“After one year, DEP will evaluate the effectiveness of the remedy and determine if additional actions may be necessary,” Cain said.
During the next 12 months, DEP will provide residents with bottled water, and will test water at the impacted homes, according to state documents. DEP said the filtration systems will “effectively eliminate...exposure to PFOS and PFOA in the groundwater.”
If the solution is found to be effective, responsibility – that includes cost – for maintaining the systems will be turned over to the homeowners after a year, according to DEP’s plan.
Cain noted that DEP could consider taking a different approach if a state or federal drinking water standard is set. The 70 ppt is a health advisory level, but not an actual standard, officials said.
While scientists continue to evaluate the health impacts of the chemicals, some studies have linked them to increased risk of cancer, immune system problems, elevated cholesterol, developmental issues in infants and older children, and more.
Around for decades, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that appear in everything from carpeting, waterproof clothing and upholstery, to food paper wrappings, fire-fighting foams, and metal plating. PFAS chemicals are persistent, which means they do not break down in the environment. They also bioaccumulate: The amount builds up over time in the blood and organs.
While the source of the contamination in the Rockhills officially remains undetermined, many locals believe it stems from fire-fighting foam used to battle a large-scale blaze in the area back in the 1980s.