The water system:
Horsham’s public water system consists of 15 wells that are strategically located throughout the Township. The Authority’s collective DRBC allocation for its 15 wells is 83.36 million gallons over rolling 30 days.
Horsham’s water system is divided into two zones divided generally by Keith Valley Road and Tennis Avenue. The high zone consists of the portion of the Township west of the above mentioned boundary delineation and the low zone is to the east.
The high zone includes two storage tanks - Lower State and Cedar Hill and three wells - 3, 7, and 19. The low zone consists of three storage tanks - Maple, Herman, and Witmer and 12 wells - 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 17, 20, 21, 22, 26, and 40.
The five storage tanks have a combined capacity of 4,250,000 gallons and provide the Township with pressure equalization, fire reserve, and emergency standby storage.
Approximately 141 miles of water mains ranging from 6 to 16 inches in diameter, 1,500 isolation valves, 1,000 fire hydrants, and 7,800 metered residential, commercial and industrial and fire service connections make up the transmission and distribution system.
There are also three interconnections with neighboring suppliers to supplement water system demand.
The Aqua PA interconnection is located at Welsh Road and Electronic Drive in the Authority’s low pressure zone. The Aqua interconnection is permitted for up to 400,000 gallons per day, but is generally operated at approximately 225,000 gallons per day.
The original interconnection with the North Wales Water Authority (NWWA) is located at Welsh & Llanfair Roads in the Authority’s high pressure zone. A second interconnection with NWWA located on County Line Road, north of Route 611 was placed into service in 2018 as part of the long term plan associated with the PFAS contamination (described below) and supplies water to the low zone. The two NWWA interconnections are permitted for a combined 800,000 gpd, however HWSA was granted a temporary increase to 1.2 MGD in order to accommodate the short term plan associated with the PFAS contamination (also described below). The temporary permit increase expired in September 2019, at which time the maximum permitted flow returned to 800,000 gallons per day and the minimum flow purchase was increased to 600,000 gallons per day.
Flow rates for all three interconnections are adjusted based on system demand and the operating status of the Authority’s wells. A third interconnection with NWWA is located on Lower State Road at Chestnut Creek Park. This interconnection is generally used only in emergency situations.
Generally, demand in each zone is met using water from the storage tanks within that zone. The wells in each zone begin to pump simultaneously to meet customer demand and refill the tanks when the water level in the tanks in the respective zone drops to a predetermined level. While the wells are pumping, water is being supplied throughout the interconnected system both from the tanks and from the various sources of water entering the system. When the tanks refill, the wells turn off and water is supplied via the storage tanks. Water in the tanks is diminished and restored based on demand and the wells cycle accordingly between active and inactive pumping states.
Through the controlled operation of valves at two separate locations in the system, water from the high zone can be moved by gravity into the low zone. A single booster location allows the movement of water from the low zone into the high zone through a controlled pump and valve operation.
The average daily water demand of 2.2 MGD is met through a combination of water production and purchase from adjacent suppliers.
Historically, treatment at the wells had been limited to gaseous chlorine disinfection (all wells), supplemental aeration to remove volatile organics (5 wells), and iron sequestration (1 well). Treatment systems for the removal of PFAS have been added to numerous supply wells as described below.
Water System Operations:
From 1997 to June 2019, day to day operations of the water system had been carried out under a management contract with Aqua Pennsylvania (Aqua), formerly, Philadelphia Suburban Water Company. Due to the changes in the operation of the HWSA system resulting from the presence of PFAS, since mid-2017, HWSA has taken on more of a lead role in the operation of the water system. For the first time in the history of the Horsham water system, as of January 1, 2019, Authority personnel have assumed full responsibility for the operation of the HWSA wells. Aqua continued its role of distribution system operations until June 30, 2019 at which time the North Wales Water
Authority (NWWA) assumed the operation of the Authority’s distribution system under an interim agreement. A long term (three year) Operations and Maintenance Services Agreement was finalized in December 2019. Under this agreement, NWWA performs such services as emergency repairs, system flushing, fire hydrant and valve inspections, and meter replacements. Aqua continues to support HWSA in the area of compliance monitoring, reporting, and laboratory analyses.
Since July 2014 HWSA has been responding to the discovery of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (collectively called PFAS and pronounced as “pee-fas”) in local groundwater resources. Two of the compounds in the PFAS family are Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). In 2009, EPA established Provisional Health Advisories (PHA) of 200 parts per trillion (ppt, or ng/L nanograms per liter) and 400 ppt for PFOS and PFOA, respectively. PHAs are health based advisories that serve as interim guidance while further research relating to the contaminants is performed.
Both compounds were detected at elevated levels in groundwater on the former NASJRB and the existing HAGS, linking the presence of PFAS in the local groundwater resources to historical activity at these military facilities. Monitoring of HWSA’s public supply wells performed in accordance with the EPA’s Third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) revealed that five of the HWSA wells, 10, 17, 21, 26, & 40 contained concentrations of several PFAS. PFOS and PFOA levels in Wells 26 & 40 were found to be in excess of the PHA and both wells were immediately taken out of service. Both compounds were also detected in Wells 10, 17 & 21, but at levels below the then PHA. Subsequent testing of the public supply wells at lower sensitivity levels than those prescribed by EPA under UCMR3 revealed the presence of PFAS at all 15 of HWSA’s wells.
As a result of sampling performed by the EPA on behalf of the Navy, PFOS and PFOA was also discovered in many private wells surrounding NASJRB and HAGS at levels in excess of the PHA. In May 2015, EPA issued an Administrative Order to the Air National Guard (ANG), a component of the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Air Force mandating response actions relating to the contamination and designating a specific area of responsibility within the Township outside of the HAGS boundaries to the ANG. The remaining majority portion of the Township, in which all of the public supply wells are located, is designated as the responsibility of the Navy. Although none of HWSA’s public supply wells are within the ANG area of responsibility, the area does include numerous impacted private wells. Given the tie of the contamination to both military facilities, in July 2015 and November 2015 respectively, HWSA entered into Cooperative Agreements (CA) with both the Navy and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) providing grant funding to carry out the necessary response actions associated with levels of the contamination above the then current PHA and any future standard.
In May 2016, EPA replaced the PHA with a Lifetime Health Advisory of 70 ppt for the combined concentration of PFOS and PFOA, prompting the shut-down of the HWSA’s
public supply Wells 10, 17, and 21 and doubling the number of private properties with individual private drinking water wells exceeding the health standard.
Though PFOS and/or PFOA are present below the EPA HA in all other HWSA supply wells, because the combined concentration in these wells is below the 70 ppt HA, the military is not funding treatment for these wells.
However, in light of concerns as to the evolving nature of the science regarding PFAS contamination in drinking water and the chronic, historic consumption in the community, in a June 26, 2016 presentation HWSA laid out five options for a short term action plan to Horsham Township Council. After hearing comments and concerns raised by the residents, and with the overwhelming support of the public in attendance at the meeting, Council voted to adopt the most groundbreaking and aggressive Short Term Plan option that included the installation of temporary and/or permanent treatment systems at the five Navy-funded wells, temporarily suspending use of eight of the nine remaining wells and replacing that production with a temporary increase in water purchased from NWWA. In October 2016 Horsham Council and HWSA jointly adopted its Long Term Action Plan designed to sustain the non-detect goal of the Short Term Plan. Through the efforts of State Representative Todd Stephens, with the support of Gov. Tom Wolf, Horsham was awarded a $10M PennVest grant in a bill that passed as part of the 2016-2017 state budget process. This funding is designated for capital costs for infrastructure associated with the Long Term Plan however operating costs are not eligible for reimbursement under this funding. Accordingly, a PFAS surcharge for the purpose of funding recurring short and long term remediation operational efforts, outside of those being funded by the military or through the PennVest grant was instituted in September 2016. The majority of short and long term operational costs represent the cost of purchased water at approximately 2.5 times more than producing it from our own wells, and the change-out of exhausted filter media.
On May 14, 2018, HWSA entered into a contingent fee agreement with the law firm of Anapol Weiss for professional services to pursue reimbursement and other damages from five foam manufacturers in connection with the PFAS contamination of HWSA’s water supply. Our pending case, along with numerous other cases against the foam manufacturers, has been centralized and transferred to the United States District Court in South Carolina. The Authority’s Complaint for a Jury Trial was filed on August 30, 2019. If awarded, HWSA intends to utilize these funds to reimburse its ratepayers for previous surcharges.
In August 2019, the Authority hosted Representative Todd Stephens and Governor Tom Wolf along with other state and local officials for an announcement of new state funding to alleviate the surcharge and as of October 2019, the surcharge was suspended.
The Long Term Plan was essentially implemented in early October 2019 when three of the untreated supply wells (1, 3 and 6) were placed in a formal reserve status, two (7 & 9) in a standby status, and the remaining nine HWSA wells that are currently in operation are all equipped with either permanent or temporary PFAS removal treatment. The
interconnection with purchased supplier, Aqua, that will be equipped with PFAS removal treatment was removed from service in October 2019 for the installation of the filters. This interconnection is expected back in service in early 2020. The final stage of the plan will be the conversion of three HWSA wells (10, 17 & 21) from the temporary PFAS removal filters currently being utilized to permanent ones. This work is expected to be performed in 2020.