PFAS are toxic chemicals commonly found in clothing and non-stick cookware like teflon. This file photo from April 2019 shows York County homeowner Nathan Volpi, who found out getting his water tested was neither easy nor cheap.
Wallace McKelvey / PennLive
Navy site in Mechanicsburg to host PFAS open house
As the Harrisburg reporter for StateImpact Pennsylvania, Marie Cusick covers energy and environmental issues for public radio stations statewide. She’s also part of NPR’s energy and environment team, which coordinates coverage between the network and select member station reporters around the country. Her work frequently airs on NPR shows including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Since 2012, Marie has closely followed the political, social, environmental, and economic effects of Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom. Her work has been recognized at the regional and national levels– honors include a Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association. Previously, Marie was a multimedia reporter for WMHT in Albany, New York and covered technology for the station’s statewide public affairs TV show, New York NOW. In 2018, she became StateImpact’s first FAA-licensed drone pilot.
Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg will have experts, as well as state and federal regulators on hand Wednesday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Park Inn on Carlisle Pike.
PFAS is an acronym for a group of man-made chemicals used widely in things like non-stick cookware and firefighting foam. They persist in the environment and can be found in the air, soil, and water. The chemicals have been linked to illnesses, including cancer. But there is uncertainty around how exactly they affect human health and at what doses.
As part of a Navy-wide effort, the installation, which serves as a warehousing and logistics site, has reached out to nearby residents who have private water wells to do testing.
NSA Mechanicsburg spokesman Chris Cleaver said the chemicals were used either in training, firefighting or in storage at eight sites on the 700-acre facility in Cumberland County.
“We did firefighting training on the installation from the ’60s to the early ’90s at several locations,” Cleaver said. “There was a small fire in 2000 that we also used firefighting foam.”
Cleaver said about 75 letters have been sent to nearby property owners.
“We want to proactively get out there, get to the community, and see if there’s a problem with these levels — if they do exist — and then make some decisions about how we can move forward,” he said.
The agency also launched a year-long sampling plan in May to test water from more than 300 public water supplies with a higher potential for contamination, based on their proximity to sites such as military bases, fire training sites, landfills, and manufacturing facilities.