“The Department of Defense says it is ‘too early’ to determine whether it will adhere to newly recommended safety limits for toxic chemicals being found at military bases across the country, including in Bucks and Montgomery counties.

The subject of ongoing coverage by this news organization, toxic perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFAS, have been found in nationally high amounts in area drinking water in recent years. The chemicals originated in firefighting foams used at a trio of current and former military bases in Warminter, Horsham and Warrington.

The military also has found the compounds in drinking water on or near scores of military bases across the country. The Department of the Defense is focused on two particular perfluorinated chemicals — PFOS and PFOA — for which the Environmental Protection Agency has set a combined recommended safety limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Generally, the military is paying for any water sources found to be contaminated above that amount, either by providing replacement water or filtration systems.

But many environmental groups, elected officials and private citizens are critical of that approach, saying the 70 ppt limit is too high and that the Department of Defense is ignoring dozens of other PFAS chemicals that are often found alongside PFOS and PFOA and may also be toxic.

The issue came to a head last month, when a sub-agency of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a draft health study that put forth a recommended daily consumption limit for the chemicals at a fraction of what the EPA believes is a safe dose. If the difference was applied to the EPA health advisory, it would translate to about an 11 ppt limit for PFOA and 7 ppt limit for PFOS.

On the heels of the report, local congressmen Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown, and Brendan Boyle, D-13, of Philadelphia, called on the military to at least adhere to the lower levels put forth in the CDC report, if not remove the chemicals from water entirely…

Babb also was asked why the Department of Defense uses the EPA’s 70 ppt advisory to guide its actions in contaminated communities nationwide. In 2016, the office of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, told this news organization that military officials told the lawmaker ‘they are statutorily limited by the EPA standards and by standards set at the state level,’ after Casey had asked about the department’s approach around the country.

But Babb wrote the EPA’s 70 ppt advisory is actually only a ‘guidance’ from the agency and limits for the chemicals are ‘not enforceable drinking water standards.’

‘However,’ Babb added, ‘the DOD is following the EPA advisory and its recommended actions, which include taking drinking water supply wells off line and/or providing alternative drinking water to break the exposure pathway.’…

There are federal processes in place to deal with chemicals for which there are no official drinking water standards. One policy is called ‘Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements,’ or ARAR, which federal officials can use to swap in state standards, recommendations, or other relevant information sources to guide clean-up of a chemical.

Contracts between the military and local water authorities to install carbon filtration systems reference the process, stating that ‘future new or revised’ ARAR figures could be used to adjust which water sources the military considers contaminated. Currently the number is 70 ppt, leaving the Warminster, Warrington and Horsham water authorities paying millions of dollars a year to filter the chemicals out of their water entirely.”

Read the full article by Kyle Bagenstose