NEW HANOVER — The state has released the $2 million needed to pay for the extension of a Superior Water Co. line to provide water to roughly 30 properties whose wells have been found to be polluted with hazardous chemicals.
“This waterline project is being made possible through the cooperation, assistance and partnership of New Hanover Township, Superior Water Company, area legislators and the Department of Environmental Protection,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a prepared statement released by the DEP.
“It will provide clean drinking water to a community where wells were polluted and will ensure the public’s safety,” said Corbett.
The money comes from the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund grant comes from Act 13 impact fee revenues, which are generated largely by fees put on natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale formation.
The source of the pollution of the wells along Layfield and Hoffmansville roads is believed to be the former Good Oil site on Layfield Road.
Sampling of more than 40 drinking water wells showed elevated levels of volatile organic compounds, pesticides and herbicides, along with oil and gasoline. In working with EPA, as well as state and federal health officials, DEP provided bottled water to affected residents, and installed carbon filtration units in homes where contamination levels posed an inhalation risk.
The contamination was first noted by the Montgomery County Health Department in 2011 and DEP initially met with area residents in April 2012 to discuss its investigation.
In December 2012, DEP held a hearing to give residents and interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposal to extend public water to nearly 30 homes where contamination exceeds or has the potential to exceed safe drinking water levels.
In April, DEP held a public meeting to outline the plan for providing public water to those with unsafe contamination levels in their wells.
Identified as the most “feasible, implementable, effective and permanent solution to the threat of exposure to site-related contaminants through ingestion, inhalation of groundwater,” the DEP also examined solutions that included in-house carbon filtration systems, providing bottled water and doing nothing.
In an email to The Mercury in December, Superior Water Co. President Louise Knight wrote, “Our average customer uses less than 50,000 gallons annually, yielding an average bill of about $7,000 per year.”
The water line option the DEP is recommending would also likely require a township ordinance governing the rules for hooking up to the system.
Some utilities require that once a water line passes in front of a home, the home be hooked up to the system, whether its well is polluted or not.
It would be up to the New Hanover Board of Supervisors to set those rules.
It was not immediately clear Thursday how quickly that work may begin.
Although the provision of the money means work to install the line means work can begin almost immediately, the state has not yet determined the source of the pollution with any finality.
DEP’s investigation to determine a definitive source for the contamination is ongoing.
The state has focused on the former Swann Oil Co., at 334 Layfield Road, as the likely source of the contamination, a site whose contamination history dates back to the early 1970s. It was also the site of the former Good Oil Co.
The latest investigation was kick-started in July 2011, when a test on a well at 326 Layfield Road found high levels of contaminants, including those from a family of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
In January 2012, samples on 12 shallow wells on the property showed contaminants in eight of them.
Last April, monitoring wells were installed around the perimeter of the property to try to track the direction in which the contamination is moving.
The chemicals of concern include:
• Trichloroethylene, or TCE — an increasingly common industrial pollutant which found in the wells at levels ranging from 15 to 624 parts per billion, between three times and 125 times the safety level established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
• DCE, or cis-1,2-dichloroethene — which was found at levels 25 to 1,580 parts per billion, as much as 22 times the safety level established by the EPA.
• Vinyl chloride — one of the few chemicals recognized by the federal government as a carcinogen which was found at levels ranging from 10 to 100 parts per billion, between five and 50 times the EPA standard.
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