WARMINSTER, PA â€“ Hope Grosse and Joanne Stanton have fond memories of the childhood they shared in the Philadelphia suburbs. They spent their days outside playing football, riding bikes and â€” when the Blue Angels came to town â€” they watched the skies.
For kids in Horsham and Warminster Townships, that was just one of the perks of growing up near two active military bases. Grosse, who lived across the street from the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster, remembers watching, rapt, as Navy personnel torched airplanes during weekly fire drills and doused the flames with a white, bubbly foam.
“We would run up the street as the sirens went off and sit with our fingers in the fence,” said Grosse, 55. “It was fun. I donâ€™t think we were worried about anything.”
But the women share other kinds of memories. Family dogs that grew tumors and died, one after the other. Neighbors and family members, even their own children, diagnosed with serious medical conditions, from thyroid disease to cancer.
Then, in 2014, testing performed by the EPA revealed groundwater near the bases had been contaminated with PFAS, a shorthand term for a family of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in a long list of products, including cookware to firefighting foam used by the military.
For Grosse and Stanton, it was like a lightbulb went on.
“You canâ€™t tell us that we drank contaminated water for 50 years and that it did nothing, that it didnâ€™t have a health impact,” Stanton, 54, said.
Often referred to as “forever chemicals,” because they do not degrade in the environment,Â PFAS have been linked to various medical conditionsÂ and cancers inÂ humans and animals, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, and effects on the immune system, among others.
A ‘forever chemical’ poisons drinking water near military bases