“MARTINSBURG — The city of Martinsburg will still pursue its lawsuit against the Air National Guard to recoup the $4.5 million it spent to rebuild the Big Springs Water Filtration plant last year.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R- W.Va., in June helped craft a bill that would have opened the door for Martinsburg to receive federal money for costs to rebuild the Big Springs Water plant, which was shut down in 2016 when high levels of the chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, were found in thewater.

Capito had added language to the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize the Department of Defense to pay for cleanup costs related to the contamination of Martinsburg’s water supply…

However, the funding provision was subsequently dropped by the Senate Conference Committee, Capito said Friday while visiting the Journal.

After talking with Martinsburg officials, they have decided to continue their lawsuit, Capito said…

The Martinsburg City Council on May 10 authorized city attorney Kin Sayre to file a claim against the federal government for the alleged chemical contamination of the city’s water plant by the Air National Guard in 2016.

Martinsburg shut down the plant on May 19, 2016, after PFOA and PFOS became detectable in the city’s water supply. PFOA and PFOS are fluoridate organic chemicals used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics and also fire fighting foam.

The federal government had originally promised to pay Martinsburg up to an estimated $10 million to remediate contamination at the plant.

In January 2017 Richard P. McCoy, P.E. — branch chief, environmental restoration branch, National Guard, at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland — told the council that the National Guard Base in Berkeley County is responsible for the PFOA seeping into the Big Spring plant water supply…

‘So we are responding, now that new information is out there,’ McCoy said. ‘We will be working with the Air Force and the Department of Defense to get the funding and oversee payments regarding the installation of carbon filtration at the plant.’

However, the Air Force’s commitment changed two months later, when federal officials said payment was placed on ‘pause.’ Then in May of that same year, the city was informed that any costs to rebuild the plant would not be immediately reimbursed by the federal government.

‘Pause means basically that we do not have fiscal authority to reimburse the city under a cooperative agreement,’ said Dennis Pinigis, senior program manager for the Air National Guard Environmental Restoration. “’We are not authorized and will not reimburse costs you incur for treatment of the contaminated water.’

Pinigis said the Air Force will eventually make a decision on how it will proceed with the proposed agreement with the city.”

Read the full article by Jim McConville