Per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Drinking Water

The Montgomery County Office of Public Health (OPH) has no role or jurisdiction in the circumstances surrounding PFAS (also known as Pre- or Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) in drinking water, specifically as it relates to recent findings in groundwater on and near the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station and Joint Reserve Base. We provide the information below in order to help the community access information and resources that may be helpful.

WHO IS IN CHARGE? 


Assessment of the evolving situation continues to be evaluated by the lead agencies that operate, regulate or monitor the public water supply including:

Horsham Township, Horsham Water and Sewer Authority (HSWA) 
William Walker, Township Manager 
Tina O’Rourke, Business Manager

PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) 
Virginia Cain, Community Relations Coordinator 

PA Department of Health (PADOH) 
Dr. Farhad Ahmed, PI & Health Assessment Section Chief

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
Larry Brown, Community Involvement Coordinator
Linda Watson, Toxicologist 
Dawn Ioven, Toxicologist 

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) 
Lora Werner, Region 3 Director 
Karl Markiewicz, PhD, Senior Toxicologist

U.S. Navy and Air National Guard 
Willington Lin, BRAC Environmental Coordinator 
Lt. Col. Jacqueline Siciliano, Environmental Manager, PAANG 

WHAT IS THE CONTEXT/BACKGROUND? 

PFAS are industrial chemicals found in a variety of everyday industrial as well as household use products including fire-fighting foam used at the military base. In July 2014, two types of PFAS were found in Horsham public water supply wells near the base. Based on prior understanding of risk, EPA issued health advisories for water with concentrations of 0.20 and 0.40 parts per billion or ppb for specific PFAS and public wells with higher concentrations of PFAS were removed from service by HSWA as a precautionary measure to protect public health. In May 2016, the EPA determined a Lifetime Health Advisory Level of 0.070 ppb for combined PFAS, a level lower than what was recommended in 2014. For more information, please view this link: Horsham Township

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH RISKS? 
Exposure to PFAS occurs mainly through ingestion. This includes drinking, cooking and brushing teeth. Known facts and information sheets can be found here: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Although use of these chemicals has gradually decreased in the United States over the past ten years, most Americans still have PFAS in their bodies because the chemicals are still found in many common household items including:  
  • Fast food and candy wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, and pizza boxes
  • Nonstick cookware, stain-resistant coatings for carpets or upholstery
  • Cleaning products and personal care products
  • Paints, varnishes and sealants 

ATSDR is currently working on a document regarding the toxicity of specific PFAS. Also, they are working with PADOH on a cancer incidence data review to detect any rise in cancer cases in the area of the Naval Air Station. As of yet, no time frame has been set for completion.  

PFAS Biomonitoring Project


The PA Department of Health (PADOH) is piloting a program to test resident exposure to per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in impacted areas of Bucks and Montgomery counties through a grant from the Association of State and TErritorial Health Officials. The study will use and provide feedback on a toolkit developed by the Centers for Disease Control and PRevention (CDC) and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR), the study will lay the scientific groundwork for a larger, national study.

Approximately 500 residents will be randomly selected for biomonitoring from the public water service area by home address using the PFAS Exposure Assessment Technical Tools (PEATT) protocol. Residents who lived in the area prior to June 2016 are eligible. Participants' blood samples will be analyzed for eleven PFAS. They will also be required to fill out a questionnaire on basic information like demographics, length of residence in the area, exposure, occupation, and health effects. Community meetings will be organized during the study period to explain the project and progress.

Participants will get their test results, along with an assessment to interpret the results compared to the rest of the community and the nation. The result of this pilot program will be used to set protocols and baselines for a national study on the health impacts of PFAS.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT PFAS AND PREVENTION?  



ATSDR/CDC Resources