The Pentagon would receive $10 million to carry out health screenings in communities where drinking water has been contaminated by military bases — like two in Montgomery and Bucks counties (Pennsylvania) – under an appropriations bill amendment passed by the House on Thursday night.
The measure would be the military’s first step toward the health tests, which residents and public officials have advocated to determine the possible effects of ingesting the little-known chemicals.
Under another amendment passed Thursday, the Navy and the Air Force would get $60 million to help address the contamination, which has shut off tap water for hundreds of thousands across the country, and caused headaches over remediation and debates about what level of chemicals are safe to drink.
In Bucks and Montgomery Counties, about 70,000 residents have contended with tainted water running from their taps. The military is now testing nearly 400 bases for the chemicals, known as PFOA and PFOS, and as of April had confirmed water contamination at or near more than 35 of those bases.
If approved by the Senate, the amendments would provide the first federal funding for a drinking-water crisis that has unfolded nationwide with discoveries that firefighting chemicals used at military bases have leaked into some public and private drinking-water wells.
The chemicals have been linked to certain cancers and other health problems, but scientists are still researching the relatively unknown compounds, and some disagree with the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory level for drinking-water safety.