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Paden City Seeks Water Contamination Answers

By Rick Loy - Staff Writer | Sep 23, 2020

Paden City officials and members of the Water Crisis Group stand outside the Water Crisis headquarters on Main Street.

On Tuesday, September 8, Paden City Mayor Rick Casteel, city Maintenance Superintendent Josh Billiter, and the Paden City Water Crisis Group, met on Main Street at the Group’s headquarters to discuss new test well drillings and soil water samples slated to take place later that day and throughout the next two weeks.

During the discussion at the headquarters Water Crisis member Tonya Schular gave a brief overview of recent findings by the EPA following their initial drilling for test wells and soil samples. According to Schular the results from the samples were not favorable and show excessive amounts of PCE concentrations in a large area around the old Band Box Cleaners, and the area surrounding the High School and athletic field. Schular also showed the chart that the group is using to track homes in the community who have people affected with various diseases, including many with cancer. With only about a third of the community canvassed so far for health surveys by the Water Crisis Group, the area shows nearly every home with some type of disease that could be related to the drinking water the town has provided over the past 10 years or more. The group contends it could go back as far as the 1970’s.

Records indicate that the drinking water has been polluted or contaminated for at least 10 years with high levels of Tetrachloroethylene (PCE). The EPA is currently continuing it’s investigation in the matter and has just started phase two of their investigation, which will include more test wells and soil samples around the Band Box cleaners site, with testing and sampling from other areas south of the high school. Two of those sites which will have test wells and soil samples taken are the old Rockwell cleaners and Budd’s Cleaners. Testing and drilling will take place just north of Main Street in an alley off of Third Avenue, and a couple other locations near Main Street.

Conner O’Loughlin EPA Site Manager was in town on Tuesday, and spoke briefly about Phase One testing around the Band Box Cleaners. O’Louglin stated they found high levels of soil and groundwater contamination near the site and defined it as a wedge-shaped plume that was probably going under the football field and moving towards the city wells. O’Loughlin said his colleague Dennis Matlock started the study early in 2018. He said the study will help identify targets of human health and fisheries being affected. He added the human health target has already been identified in the drinking water, but noted the new water project known as the “stripper plant” has shown to be effective in removing the PCE from the city water.

The EPA is conducting the testing and investigation, due to drinking water samples taken by the city over the years which were over the allowable limits of contamination by law. Paden City’s history of contamination extends over a long period of time, which is currently unknown. However, the Paden City Water Crisis group is working to find out exactly how long the city has known of any type of contamination whether PCA or other pollutants.

It is well known that the city wells have experienced contamination problems for at least 10 years, but other sources indicate faulty water tanks, water lines, wells and groundwater soil could have been a source of contamination for many years prior to 2010.

The current investigation will not only include test well and soil samples, but also vapor intrusion testing. Vapor intrusion testing will be done at the high school and several homes in the suspected plume area during the EPA’s phase two study. The EPA is looking to define how deep the contamination is and to identify the correct amount, which will lead them to determine what course of action to take if any as far as cleanup is concerned. Their plan during the phase two study is to do the vapor intrusion study at the High School within two weeks of their phase two startup.

According to O’Loughlin vapor intrusion enters into homes and buildings though cracks in basements, vents and plumbing. He said PCE is a porous liquid that finds it’s way to the least resistance, and often sinks and ends toward the top of the bedrock, he added the light phase liquid will float, but the more dense type will sink deeper. O’Loughlin said his main duty as site manager is to collect as much data as possible to show human health hazards, to determine if he can collect enough information to rule the area a super fund site.

While in town for phase two of the investigation the EPA will spend the next two weeks drilling test wells which will be checked for contamination. O’Loughlin said they will be drilling two types of wells, one is the Nested (shallow) well which is about 15-30 feet deep, and the Deep wells which are 70-90 feet deep clear down to the bedrock. O’Loughlin is a Geologist who has several years experience in soil and groundwater testing. He said one thing they want to determine is how the contamination might have affected other areas in Paden City. He mentioned PCE follows the least amount of resistance which would be southwest toward the city wells and Ohio River, and the area at the city park. Phase two of the investigation is scheduled to be complete by December.