Article courtesy of The Courier-Journal | Shared as educational material| September 27, 2014 |
Contamination levels in the U.S. Census Bureau’s well-water supply in Jeffersonville have increased well beyond the federal EPA’s recommended maximum level, according to the latest quarterly report from the Indiana Department for Environmental Management.
The level of a toxic chemical used in dry cleaning and other industries spiked to 8 parts per billion in a July test — well over the 5 ppb limit federal authorities list as the maximum contaminant level. It was 5.5 ppb in April.
But a Sept. 10 report from Illinois-based Environmental Consulting Group Inc. shows much higher levels — up to 870 ppb — of the volatile, likely carcinogenic chemical in a groundwater-monitoring well installed in January 2013 across 10th Street from the Census Bureau’s main building. Officials believe a spill occurred there at least eight years ago.
Many of the roughly 1,250 Census workers have been worried since they were notified about the contamination about a year ago. Consumption of large quantities of the chemical over time could lead to serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and children, experts say.
Louisville environmental consultant Mark Fackler, who is not involved in the testing at the bureau, said the chemical tetrachloroethylene, also referred to as perchloroethylene, PCE or PERC, “is just wicked, wicked stuff.”
Since the state ordered the Census Bureau to correct its contaminated water supply last year, it also started a transition to Indiana American Water Co. supply lines from its current well water, which is pumped from the ground.
“I can’t emphasize enough that the safety of our workers is our top priority,” said David Hackbarth, director of the Census Bureau’s Jeffersonville facilities, noting other property managers in the complex also were notified of contamination levels last year.
The Census Bureau has also shut off its drinking fountains and ice machines, provided water dispensers as an alternative for employees and has posted quarterly state water test results.