Source: https://www.journal-news.net, May 31, 2019
The city of Martinsburg will be reimbursed $4,915,628 by the U.S. Air Force for expenses related to the cleanup of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — or PFAS — found in the city’s water supply in 2016.
Both Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. assisted with the process of the agreement.
“I’m so thrilled that the Air Force has finally put forward an agreement that will help recuperate the significant costs Martinsburg incurred during the cleanup of their water supply,” Capito said in a press release. “When faced with this serious public health challenge, the city stepped up to protect the health and wellbeing of the community and its residents, and that was neither an easy nor an inexpensive effort. It’s taken a lot of hard work to ensure the city would be reimbursed for the money they had to spend — from securing the funding to helping facilitate discussions among the various parties — but today, that work is paying off. I’m glad to see this issue being resolved, and I will continue doing what I can at the federal level to keep West Virginians and the communities they call home healthy and safe.”
Manchin agreed, saying he will “continue to encourage” the Department of Defense to “act in the best interest of impacted communities.”
“I’m glad to see the Department of Defense working with the city of Martinsburg to take ownership of a problem we have been trying to solve for three years,” he said in a press release.
Capito last week introduced two bipartisan bills related to PFAS, including the Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act of 2019 and the PFAS Release Disclosure Act. The bills would require the EPA to establish a standard to be enforced under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFAS in drinking water as well as provide a clear process for the EPA to identify and share sources of PFAS emissions with the public and policymakers.
The reimbursement stems from a 2016 incident in which the Environmental Protection Agency identified high levels of PFAS in the city’s water supply, which was caused by firefighting foam used by the Air National Guard at the Eastern Regional Airport.
The EPA mandated the installation of additional water filtration systems at the Big Springs water treatment plant in Martinsburg, which led to the plant shutting down so standards could be met.
According to Steve Knipe, the director of the city’s water and sewer department, engineering to do testing, pilot work and construction of a new plan were implemented during the closure, and the plant was back online in December of 2017.
The initial site near Shepherd Field at the Eastern Regional Airport will now be part of a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sometime this year continuing through 2020.