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Council Addresses PCE Contamination At Meeting

By Staff | Apr 2, 2019

Logan Alastanos, a Trasher Engineering representative, addresses council and citizens.

Over two dozen citizens packed the Paden City council chambers at the municipal building during the April 1 monthly council meeting, all of them seeking answers to the water contamination issue in the Paden City water supply.

Previously, at the March 4 council meeting when Mayor Hochstrasser first informed citizens of the PCE contamination level being over the EPA limit, the council and Thrasher Engineering explored the possibility of pulling the specific piece of equipment needed to eliminate the PCE — the air strippers — from the city’s planned water project and seeking funding for it sooner. This is now the city’s plan of action. While the air strippers were already included in the city’s upcoming $5 million water project, they were at least 2.5 years away from being completed.

Tonya Shuler, a Paden City resident since 1994, seemed to speak for the crowd by asking the question everyone in attendance wanted answered: “What’s going on with it, where are we at with it?”

Mayor Hochstrasser stated that the city is currently looking in to getting the funding for the six-tray air stripper, and asked Thrasher for an update on funding.

Logan Alastanos, a Thrasher Engineering representative who has been working with the city on the upcoming water project, explained, “We have not received funding yet; we are submitting this week for emergency funding from the USDA. Once that proceeds through, they will have to approve; from that point we can continue with the design and getting it out to construction.”

Citizens gather at Paden City's April 1 council meeting, seeking answers about the PCE contamination in the town's water supply. (Photos by Monica Mays)

Alastanos explained how the air stripper will clean the contaminate from the water supply: “We found a six tray air stripper; what this is – it takes raw water in from the top, and the easiest way to treat PCE contamination is through air stripping. You pump a high volume of air to water ratio into it; the chemical will attach itself to the free air molecules and go out the vent where it is not harmful anymore. This air stripper cascades the water down through, while pumping air through slotted trays. This stripper has been shown to be about 99.9 percent effective on higher numbers of PCE than you guys have. Madison Wisconsin was a good example; they had PCE and TCE contamination; they put these air strippers in, and they haven’t had a problem since.”

Shuler went on to voice her concerns over her family’s long-term exposure to the contamination, stating that she considers herself to drink a more than average amount of water on a daily basis and worries about the many known neurological disorders associated with PCE. “I wouldn’t have been drinking a gallon of the water a day had I known that it had PCE in it.” She went on to say, “I am frustrated, because nobody can give me a straight answer; should you drink it, should you not drink it, because nobody really knows what it’s going to do.”

“I can’t tell you that unless the state says it is unsafe to drink. I can’t declare an emergency unless the state comes to me and says that it’s not drinkable,” stated Hochstrasser. “We have not been told that the water is undrinkable.”

Hochstrasser went on to say that “The state allows the level to be 5.0, ours was 5.5. Technically we have to publish anytime that we are over, and we have a year to publish it. But we did not choose to do that, we chose to inform (citizens) quicker.”

Meanwhile, another citizen addressed Mayor Hochstrasser, saying, “We do applaud you for being the only one to actually step forward, since 2010, and say hey, we’ve got something in our water, let’s take care of it.”

Citizens gather at Paden City's April 1 council meeting, seeking answers about the PCE contamination in the town's water supply. (Photos by Monica Mays)

It will take four to six months to get the stripper in and installed once funding is approved. No estimate was given on how long getting approval for the USDA loan could take.

Angelina Sellers, a resident of Paden City Garden Apartments, addressed the council saying that she is not drinking the water and that some residents of the apartments have told her that they couldn’t afford to buy bottled water and are afraid to drink the city’s water. She went on the say that some of these residents are considering not paying the water portion of their city bill and asked, “What will the city do if they don’t pay? Shut it off? Do you think that’s fair?”

Mayor Hochstrasser advised that they would be shut off after 30 days of non-payment. “We realize we’ve got issues, and we’re doing everything we can to alleviate that, but at the same time, we need that money coming in to maintain the system we have now, and we can’t make these improvements without that funding.”

The council also addressed concerns over the brown water citizens experienced on Monday. One citizen had a bottle of the brown water with her at the meeting that she had collected from her faucet on Monday. Assistant Director of Water, Streets, and Maintenance Joe Parrish stated that city crews had been flushing the hydrants in parts of the city on Monday and will continue flushing other parts of the city through Thursday, April 4. Residents can expect to see brown water from time to time when hydrants are flushed. The brown water is unrelated to the PCE level.

Parrish told citizens that he is more than happy to show citizens the last two years of quarterly reports on the water samples taken and apologized for not having the numbers with him at the meeting.”Facebook is the problem. Facebook is where all the horror stories are going around and coming from; if you want the truth, come talk to us.” Parrish also stated that they are testing more frequently and the EPA is monitoring wells.

Citizens gather at Paden City's April 1 council meeting, seeking answers about the PCE contamination in the town's water supply. (Photos by Monica Mays)

A motion passed to approve Mayor Hochstrasser to sign the engineering agreement with Thrasher for the new stripper at the water plant. A motion passed to give Mayor Hochstrasser permission to sign the application for funding of the building of the stripper at the water plant.

In police matters, Chief Kendle and the council held an executive session. Raphe Bailes’ resignation as a Paden City Police officer was accepted.

In other matters, the council approved all city bills for payment and approved the minutes of the last council meeting. The Park and Pool board hired Aunnia Brady as Park Manager starting April 1.

The PCDA asked to appoint Dan Gonzales to the Development Authority Board, the council approved the motion.