Paden City Offers Water And Holds Town Meeting
As a result of the water contamination in the town of Paden City, many residents have made the decision to completely cease use of the water. This contamination comes in the form of the chemical PCE that is known to cause cancer as well as other various health issues.
While some sources claim that the chemical isn’t at a dangerous level and is drinkable, others aren’t taking the chance that the water could be harmful to them and their families.
It is because of this that some residents joined together in an effort to secure water donations for any local family in need. One case of water was offered for each household at Paden City High School in the lunchroom on March 22 from 4-5 p.m.
The idea to supply town residents with water first began on Facebook. Rachael Cain – one Paden City citizen – reported that an individual reached out to her, expressing their desire to do something to help the community in this time of turmoil and confusion for residents.
Cain jumped on this idea, explaining that this is a regular occurance for her as she performs similar tasks after other emergencies, such as house fires.
Cain started a Facebook group and began adding citizens she knew and implored others to do the same. Cain also began making phone calls, explaining the water issue to nearby stores.
The response this elicited from the phone calls was encouraging, Cain reported. She explained that stores from St. Marys to Parkersburg and Marietta participated in the donation of water. Entities like Walmart, Sams, and various other big stores within this radius donated to the cause of bringing safe drinking water to Paden City.
Cain explained that much of this idea stemmed from reports from the elderly and disabled who had no way of accessing clean water. It was because Cain and her associates were getting messages from people facing this issue that once the water arrived, they drove around to those in need and dispersed the water.
Following the donations to any family or individual in need, an informational meeting was held for all those who wished to know more about the water contamination and what it meant for them. Knowledge was also to be shared at this meeting from Cain as she reportedly did extensive research and made numerous phone calls to seek more information on PCE. She explained to all present she had called the Department of Environmental Protection among other entities with pertinent knowledge.
In addition to concerned citizens, a retired chemist – Scot Turner – was also available to answer any questions Paden City residents had on the chemical residing in the town’s water supply.
The meeting commenced with the citizens present voicing their concerns and complaints. During this time, some residents said the city is no longer listening to their complaints and that they feel as if they are being lied to.
One resident also said that they’d like to see the results of the water testing as they feel town officials have been “very tight-lipped” through the process. This matter seemed to be a concern amongst all present.
In answer to this statement, Turner explained that the town is currently on the defense as they feel they are being attacked. This thought, he said, stems from the large amount of angry citizens that attend town meetings. It was in his opinion that this approach would not work in the citizens’ favor.
It is Turner’s belief that the approach that would be most productive is to form a “core citizens group” that have more extensive knowledge and expertise on such topics. This team would meet with the citizens and compile a list of concerns they would then take to the council.
This group would essentially work hand-in-hand with the city and speak for the citizens. Any information gathered would then be relayed back to residents, therefore eliminating the issue of officials feeling threatened by the large mass of people demanding answers.
Turner also explained that while working with the mayor and other town officials, they would have the opportunity to challenge the directions they are planning to take.
Some citizens then voiced concerns about the way in which the town is planning to remove PCE from the water.
In response to this, Turner said that in the letter sent out to residents, the mayor reported that they were planning to enhance air strippers. However, Turner explained such actions will not separate PCE from the water.
Actions such as this are proof that a core citizens group is needed, the chemist explained. He said that if there was a group that was “technically competent” then they could challenge this and potentially save the town from spending a large amount of money on something that could potentially fail.
Turner told all present that there is a need for citizens to be able to listen in with the city and attain all the knowledge possible. It is important for the town to be aware of what’s happening, and in order to do so, citizens need to be able to “get behind the scenes” and be permitted to go to well sites when testing is in progress. In order for all of this to work, the chemist explained that there needs to be a core group.
One citizen then reiterated that the town is no longer listening to residents’ complaints. However, the chemist told this individual that their complaints are legitimate because the town won’t know how to fix the issue if there is a lack of data.
Following this, one individual desired to know what officials are testing for and when they do so.
The chemist told all present the town should not be testing just for PCE. Rather, they should expand their search to include all chlorinated hydrocarbons as all included in this bracket are potentially acutely and chronically hazardous.
One resident asked Turner if there was a chance that the water contamination was caused by a “algae balloon” residing in the water tanks. However, the chemist explained that because PCE is a synthesized chemical it is not likely.
Questions were also made in regards to how PCE managed to get into the aquifer. While Turner was unsure of the answer to this question, he speculated that it would have to be “pumped up”.
He explained that as there was no liquid discharge of PCE, it raises the question of how it was able to find its way into the water supply.
While an explanation was given by the mayor on this question, the chemist said that the logic in the letter sent out to residents isn’t exactly sound. It was said that if the chemical was truly poured out in the sewage line, it would go to the Waste Water Treatment Plant, and not the aquifer.
It was then said that citizens need basic information such as this.
Another individual wondered about the concentration of PCE in the water, and questioned if the excess of 0.5 percent parts per billion (ppb) is as bad as a higher number. It was said that while 5.5 percent ppb is not a high number, it can still prove dangerous. However, the town seems to be unsure of the danger of this amount.
Questions were also raised about a report that stated that a new 500,000 gallon tank was to be installed on the south side of town. However, it was noted that this has yet to happen.
In regards to this, an individual explained that there are four water tanks in Paden City. However, they also told all present that only three are currently in operation due to the contamination.
Another concern that was voiced in this meeting involved the concentration of PCE. While the recorded average is 5.5 ppb, citizens were concerned about what the highest and lowest recorded levels were.
Cain told all present that the most recent highest number was 7.83 ppb. However, she is unsure of how long such a concentration lasted. As the water is only tested quarterly, the townspeople wondered if it had been at that number for over three months. It was because of this report that some citizens felt that the water should be tested weekly.
Turner said it would be beneficial to the town if someone were to talk with officials and find out why testing is not being done on a more frequent basis. He also suggested that officials should not only test wells, but also certain homes as well.
Speculation was then made on the time gap of the dry cleaner’s shutting down and residents being made aware of the contamination in the water supply. Many wondered why it took 18 years for this chemical to suddenly show “spikes” in the water supply.
Turner told the residents that if the town is not entirely certain where the true source of the chemical is being generated then it can’t be properly shut down as it has already been in the ground and contaminated other areas.
One citizen said that if PCE is proven to be so dangerous then it should stop being produced. Turner is of the belief that such an action might be seen in the future as Paden City is not the only area to have been affected by PCE.
A concerned resident then asked Turner if the concentration of PCE in water supply might be worse for those living near the old dry cleaner’s. While he was unable to tell for certain, Turner explained that she should ask the town to test the water in the home.
However, another individual explained that testing had been done in the personal home of one resident in the past. She explained that both her home and the individual she spoke of had brown water with rust particles in it beginning in November of 2018 and lasting until early February of 2019. She explained that the other resident had their home tested after it had became clear again. When they called later with the results, it was said that nothing was wrong with the water. However, when this individual asked to see the results, they reportedly refused.
Turner again said that this is proof of the need for the core citizens group. He explained that this group would be able to “put pressure” on the city council in order to convince them to let their team work alongside the city. This team could stand up for residents such as the aforementioned citizen, and would in turn represent them at any meetings held on the subject. Turner also said that the council needs somebody to answer to from the citizens’ side and point-of-view.
Turner explained that he believed the first step should be to get with the city council and promote this group of people. Then, citizens’ questions and concerns such as if the city is sampling and flushing properly could be answered.
The former chemist expressed that as of this time, many basic questions have yet to be answered. In regards to this, Turner also said, “About every question you ask, the best answer is, ‘We don’t know yet.'” Cain said that this lack of knowledge only fuels the building hysteria.
However, Cain explained that their goal is not to tear the mayor down. Rather, they wish to support him and to help raise awareness on the contamination.
“If we can’t raise awareness and help our mayor get grants, it’s not going to get fixed.” Cain said. She told all present that the town and its residents need to stand behind him, and reminded them that the contamination was not caused by him.
Cain explained that this issue was handed to the mayor, and in her opinion the town was lucky that he had the courage to admit to the issue. This brought to mind questions of how many mayors before him had “kept their mouth shut.”
Cain and her associates wish to continue holding events such as these in order to supply residents with safe, drinkable water and help raise awareness on this issue in the quest to solve it.