Article courtesy of Frank Otto | June 4, 2014 | The Times Herald | Shared as educational material
LIMERICK — Township residents voiced their frustrations and concerns with water contamination affecting their homes at Tuesday night’s board of supervisors meeting.
The discussion began as part of a public hearing on an ordinance regarding 24 properties which were tapped by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to be hooked up to the Limerick’s municipal water system.
Those properties are in the area of the 400 and 500 blocks of North Limerick Road. The contamination is tied to Tetrachloroethene (PCE), a chemical usually used in dry-cleaning.
When asked, the board of supervisors said the Department of Environmental Protection has not yet traced where the contamination came from but it’s been known about for at least 13 or 14 years.
They have not been able to pinpoint it, unfortunately,” said board Vice Chairman Kenneth Sperring Jr.
The board of supervisors unanimously approved making the 24 properties’ hook-ups to municipal water lines mandatory Tuesday night, per DEP suggestion.
By approving the ordinance, the hook-ups can be done without any cash provided by the effected home-owners.
“We were told by the DEP that there would be no cost to the homeowners,” said Township Manager Dan Kerr, seconding Hassan.
Contractors hired by the Department of Environmental Protection will do the hook-ups, according to Kerr.
Since that ordinance was approved, the township will now reach out to the 24 affected owners to confirm with them what work will be done.
Additionally, no new wells may be dug on-site, per the ordinance.
Most of the ire from both the residents and the supervisors Tuesday night was directed toward the Department of Environmental Protect for its response to the contamination.
“It’s only through the effort of this board and through political pressure (it) has put on them that they’ve been able to come up with the grant to fix the problem,” said Solicitor Joseph McGrory Jr.
“Their solution was to provide bottled water for two years,” said Board Chairwoman Elaine Dewan. “That was the only solution they came up with. So we put pressure on them because, if you have bad water, what good is it to have bottled water for two years? This was not acceptable.”
Some homes were eventually fitted with carbon filtration systems, said Supervisor Thomas Neafcy. Most of the public who spoke out expressed their dismay that a representative from the Department of Environmental Protection was not present Tuesday night to field questions during the public hearing for the hook-up ordinance.
Some residents present said their wells tested as being safe, but the Department of Environmental Protection included them in their required hook-up list because those sites are predicted to become contaminated in the future.
“They must’ve tested well around you so they have some idea of which way this (contamination) plume will move,” Sperring said.
The records of the testing were not immediately available to the township but are in Department of Environmental Protection hands.
One resident was particularly upset because he claimed he was never notified about the contamination in the area when he bought his home in 2010.
“There should have been a mechanism so new homeowners would be notified,” he said.
Although well water may not be used for drinking or indoor residential use per the regulations set forth in the ordinance drawn up by the Department of Environmental Protection, it can be utilized for industrial and commercial use or “non-potable” uses outside.
“You can use it to water your lawn as long as you register it with,” the township, Solicitor Joseph McGrory Jr. said.
The Department of Environmental Protection is apparently also seeking to put a “tag” on the deeds of the properties contaminated.
“That’s like having bad credit,” said John O’Boyle, a property owner who will be affected.
“A lot of homes that were tested, that tested negatively, they can’t sell them,” Sperring said.
Limerick has dealt with other contamination issues recently, including one involving Tetrachloroethene on South Limerick Road in the area of Landis Creek.
Groundwater contamination in the area could continue to expand.
“That doesn’t mean this ends with the 24 homes,” Sperring said. “The plume moves.”