New EPA Rules Will Protect Pennsylvania Residents from Dangerous ‘Forever Chemicals’

The new federal standards demonstrate that the Biden administration takes clean water seriously and will continue to take necessary action to stop chemical manufacturers from endangering our most vulnerable residents.
A community park occupies the site of the former Naval Air Warfare Center Warminster (also known as Johnsville). Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency, under President Biden’s leadership, announced a set of crucial standards that will help limit the health impacts caused by a number of harmful polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. 

This announcement, which will dramatically limit the levels of PFAS chemicals in our drinking water, is a major victory for Pennsylvania residents, particularly for individuals in Montgomery and Bucks County communities like Warrington, Horsham and Warminster, where a number of health issues have been directly linked to exposure from PFAS chemicals. At the same time, the EPA has also listed PFAS chemicals as hazardous chemicals under the Superfund program, making more resources available to clean up contamination.

Many of these contaminated sites go back decades, and we are discovering more and more drinking water sources that have been contaminated as a result of the numerous industrial processes that mega-corporations, like DuPont and 3M, have utilized for years — despite long standing company knowledge of the dangerous effects of these chemicals.

Now, the voices of Pennsylvanians fighting for clean and safe drinking water will be heard as new regulations are put in place that will both reduce the acceptable levels of PFAS found in our water while also stepping up testing.

Referred to as “Forever Chemicals,” PFAS chemicals – long found in pesticides, personal care products, and fire-resistant materials – remain indefinitely in the bodies of those who are exposed. Exposures to these chemicals can lead to high cholesterol, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and damage to the immune system – problems that can either be fatal or deeply compromising to day-to-day life. 

PFAS exposure has also been associated with developmental problems in young children and serious birth defects that have led to babies being born with just one nostril or with eye or tear duct defects.

READ: Pennsylvania Can Lead the Nation to a Cleaner Future, Before It’s Too Late

A number of PFAS chemical excesses have been found to exist in fire-resistant foam tested in military bases in the region, including at the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Willow Grove, at the active Air Guard Station in Horsham, and at the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster. The foam was subsequently absorbed in soils and polluted wells near the testing locations.

PFAS chemicals have also been found in nearby local water systems, with one well showing PFAS levels of 2,740 parts per trillion

This has placed everyone in the Lower Bucks County region at serious risk of exposure. Last year, a study showed high PFAS levels in Neshaminy Creek in Langhorne. The creek supplies drinking water for much of Lower Bucks.

As a result, thousands of individuals in Bucks County have been forced to live with the uncertainty of wondering if they have been exposed — all because of the negligence and reckless behavior of chemical manufacturers.

This crisis has created a rare bipartisan consensus at every level of government in Pennsylvania because we all agree that no one deserves to live in fear and danger of toxic pollution by innocently going about their day to day lives.

The new federal standards demonstrate that the Biden administration takes clean water seriously and will continue to take necessary action to stop chemical manufacturers from endangering our most vulnerable residents.

READ: The Farm Bill: Critical to Open Space Preservation in Bucks County

And they are a direct result of years of advocacy from families across Pennsylvania and the nation who are confronting the impacts of PFAS contamination in their water.

Every person, no matter their ZIP code, deserves access to safe drinking water.

This recent announcement marks a major step forward in achieving that goal, and it demonstrates that we can succeed in improving safety for our children, seniors and families if we work together.

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Molly Parzen

Molly Parzen is Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, a statewide environmental advocacy group.

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