Family claims U.S. Navy contaminated water, endangered health
Attorneys representing a Warrington, Pa., family sent an "intent to sue" notice to the U.S. Navy and federal government claiming they are responsible for water contamination endangering the family's health and the environment. They demand biomonitoring and a health assessment to evaluate the impact of this contamination on their community.
"The mission of the U.S. Navy is to protect the American people," said attorney Mark Cuker of Williams Cuker Berezofsky, the law firm representing the family. "We're calling on the Navy to provide blood testing and medical monitoring to protect these citizens from the dangers of this toxic exposure."
In their notice, the Giovanni family, who live about 300 yd from the Navy's former Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base facility, alleges improper disposal of toxic waste at the Willow Grove base and former Naval Air Warfare Center Warminster has contaminated their water and that of their neighbors in Warrington, Warminster and Horsham townships.
The family of five says they drank, cooked and brushed their teeth with water from their private well for 11 years. In late 2014, following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing, they learned it contained dangerous levels of perfluorochemical compounds (PFCs), specifically perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), at more than 40 times EPA's health advisory level. The family was provided bottled water for six months and then connected to the Warrington public water supply, only to discover two months later that Warrington's supply also was contaminated with unsafe levels of PFCs.
"The drinking water and health of nearly 70,000 current residents and untold numbers of past residents, to say nothing of workers at the facilities themselves, has been jeopardized," Cuker said. "People have been exposed to PFCs from both private and public water supplies."
According to EPA, "PFOA and PFOS pose potential adverse effects for the environment and human health, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pregnancy-induced hypertension [and] high cholesterol, among other diseases."
The intent to sue gives 60 days advance notice requesting the government to agree to conduct health monitoring. If no agreement is reached within 60 days, Cuker's law firm plans to file lawsuits on behalf of the Giovannis and residents of the other Bucks and Montgomery county townships.
Lawsuits would be filed under the U.S. Resource Conservation Recovery Act for biomonitoring and health assessment and under the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act for medical monitoring, a health effects study and civil penalties for the public water contamination.
Residents sounding the alarm in the three townships are not alone. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has called for the Department of Defense "to take all necessary action to … fully evaluate the health consequences and provide ongoing biomonitoring to residents and military personnel who have been exposed to the water contamination."
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also has asked for biomonitoring and blood testing for persons exposed to the water, "but the calls have been either rejected or ignored."
To view a video of Cuker describing the chemicals the family alleges have caused the contamination, visit https://youtu.be/2DujMwjx12M.