Base water filtration brings benefits to the environment; base directive remains

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum
  • 111th ATKW
As of June 30, a high-tech water filtration unit, tailored to remove contaminants from ground water that services the base here is up and running; however, the directive for base personnel to not drink the water continues.

The contaminants identified were perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid. Also known as PFCs, the pollutants were discovered in area ground water in August 2014. This underground water source not only supplies the base, but also supports the community's private and public water resources.

Until recently, these unregulated contaminants were formerly used in a wide variety of common items -- from airfields to home products. The PFCs were used in such products as firefighting foam used to combat aircraft fires, carpet and furniture treatments, cosmetics, food wraps, water repellant sprays for leather, shoes and clothing, paints and cleaning products.

Tucked away in an unassuming 20-foot trailer, a labyrinth of pipes, valves, pumps and gauges feed four enormous fiberglass wrapped granular activated carbon filter cylinders. Each of the filter housings measure approximately four feet wide by seven feet tall.

The temporary filtration unit will remain in place and maintained until the new permanent pumping station and filtration structure have been completed. Currently, the estimated project completion date is spring of 2017. Once completed and thoroughly tested, a permit to allow drinking of water here again will be applied for by the base's environmental engineering unit.

"Per day, the base will use an estimated 18,500 gallons of water," said Capt. Jim Kash, deputy base civil engineer here. "With the filter in place and operating, the system is adjusted to filter approximately 100 gallons per minute."
Besides performing the vital scrubbing of the base water supply from PFCs, the unit will provide additional benefits to the base and surrounding community.

"Water pulled from the ground water supply and purified should over time, aid in the reduction or removal of the PFCs from the area's ground water basin," said Lt. Col. Jaqueline Siciliano, base environmental manager. "The base's waste water flow, processed by the Horsham Water Authority, will be substantially lower PFCs, reducing the contaminant's reintroduction into the environment.

"Additionally, the activated carbon granules trap particulate matter, organic contaminants, reduce turbidity [clarity] and undesirable tastes and odors," Siciliano added.

The installation of the GAC filter teams with a $6.3 million project on-base overhauling a troublesome water distribution and sanitary sewer infrastructure project said Maj. Lydia Stefanik, base civil engineer. When completed, this project will replace an estimated 10,000 feet of sewage lines and 20,000 feet of water feed lines.
The National Guard Bureau and Navy entities, Environmental Protection Agency and Pa. Department Environmental Protection have been working in synergy with area water authorities to reach a successful remediation goal.

Horsham Water and Sewer Authority along with the Township Council, held an action meeting with residents June 28 to tackle the way forward, nearly mirroring that of Horsham AGS's remediation efforts.

"All five affected wells currently shut down will have filters installed on them," said Tina O'Rourke, business manager of the Horsham Water and Sewer Authority. "Three of the wells will have temporary filters on in September. The other two wells will have permanent filters on in December. Then the three with temporary filters will have permanent filters in March 2017."

Horsham Water Authority announced that three temporary GAC filter would be built and delivered the week of July 27.

Along with supplemental water provided to HWSA by North Wales Water Authority and Aqua Pennsylvania, nine township wells testing below the health advisory limits remain, safely servicing the community's water needs.

The water from all these sources is looped throughout the system and blended to provide a more uniform level of detected contaminants, while remaining below the EPA's health advisory level of combined PFOS/PFOA levels of 70 parts per trillion.

O'Rourke estimated the costs for installation of the permanent GAC filters on the affected pumps to range between $650K - $900K per well, based on site conditions, pumping rate of the wells and other factors, with the costs being the burden of the Navy. 

So what is a part per trillion?

"One example is: the sun is 93 million miles away. If you move 6 inches closer to the sun, you would be one part per trillion closer to the sun," said Bill Walker, Horsham Township manager during an earlier meeting.

"The second example is that one part per trillion is one drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools," Walker said.
Similarly, Warrington Township, in conjunction with state and federal agencies, is scheduled to hold a meeting for the residents they service August 8 at 7 p.m. at the Central Bucks South High School in Warrington, Pennsylvania.