Monday, June 20, 2016

How Navy bases contaminated drinking water in Pa. towns


Hope Grosse and brother Chris Martindell (Michael Bryant photo)




















When the planes burned, the kids would come out.

Hope Grosse and her siblings would run down their Warminster street and rubberneck amid shrieking sirens. They would watch Navy firefighters shoot a dense white foam from hoses, smothering the flames that leapt up from the fenced-off lot.

When the blackened plane was cool, the children would climb the fence and jump into the burned-out cockpit, pretending to be pilots, Grosse recounted.

The plane, and the field where the Navy conducted drills, was also a playground for the Kirk Road kids back in the 1970s and '80s. They did not know then that the firefighting foam could be toxic, or that it would seep into their drinking water.

Now Grosse wonders, like at least hundreds of others in Bucks and Montgomery Counties: Have we been poisoned?

For decades, Navy personnel used the firefighting foam at hundreds of bases. Now they know that it contained chemicals linked to cancers, and that those chemicals flowed through the groundwater, into wells, and out of the faucets 
of thousands of residents in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Two former bases just north of Philadelphia have become the first Navy sites linked to drinking water tainted by these chemicals. As the Department of Defense investigates others across the country, what happens here could help shape the response nationwide.

Since 2014, nearly half of public drinking wells and scores of private wells in Horsham, Warminster, and Warrington have been shut down because of contamination. Some homeowners may have to use bottled water for up to a year; others have switched to bottled by choice.

Public awareness and alarm spiked last month when federal regulators issued new and stricter water quality standards that called into question drinking water that had previously been deemed safe.

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