Last month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency instituted more rigorous health advisory levels for chemicals called polyfluorinated compounds or PFCs.
Suddenly, a well on Easton Road in Bucks County known to contain PFC’s was above the new, stricter cutoff.
As of 2016, the new recommended lifetime exposure level in drinking water for two PFCs — known as PFOS and PFOA — is no more than 0.07 part per billion. The contaminated well near the Cross Keys Place shopping center clocked in at 0.24 ppb.
“That well was taken offline almost immediately,” said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Virginia Cain, later confirming that the contaminated well served 240 connections, most of them businesses. According to the Bucks County Courier-Times, that well was known to register high levels of PFCs as early as 2015.
The DEP announced Tuesday it will fan out and test the approximately 250 private wells in a 1-mile radius from the contaminated water source.
“All of the [remaining] municipal water in the area meets the health advisory by the EPA,” said Cain. “Subsequently, we will be investigating residential private wells to see if any of those wells have been impacted by contamination in the area.”
Testing takes three to four weeks and involves sampling private residential and “community” wells, another class of public water. The DEP will also look into whether events or businesses could have introduced the chemical to groundwater. PFCs have been found in water near plastics factories and military bases.
The area under scrutiny covers parts of Doylestown Township and Borough, Plumstead and Buckingham townships.
Communities near the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Willow Grove and the Horsham Air Guard Station have been dealing with their own PFC contamination cleanup since 2013, shutting down dozens of public and private wells. That site, 10 miles from the contaminated Doylestown well, is not believed to be the source of contamination, which remains unknown, according to Cain.
“If we were to find more contamination, we would then obviously extend that radius” of testing, said Cain. The DEP does not have information on whether other public wells register for PFCs below the new advisory level or if the compound is completely absent.
The EPA classifies PFCs as “emerging contaminants,” meaning information on the relationship between exposure to PFCs and health effects is still evolving. Studies of their effects on people show evidence of developmental delays in children and an increased risk of certain kinds of cancers.