Article courtesy of Alex Knisely | June 30, 2015 | TimesReporter | Shared as educational material
Residents will get the chance tonight to discuss with local health officials their concerns about hazardous chemicals detected in some residential wells.
The Tuscarawas County Health Department, along with the village of Newcomerstown, Oxford Township and Tuscarawas County officials, will meet with residents of the Mizer Addition east of Newcomerstown, where traces of tetrachloroethene, or PCE, were detected following a series of groundwater tests conducted since January.
PCE, a common chemical used for drycleaning fabrics and as a metal degreaser, is a potential carcinogen.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the David Barber Civic Center, 1066 E. State St.,Newcomerstown.
Health Commissioner Katie Seward said the discovery of PCE followed an unrelated train accident that occurred Jan. 15 in Oxford Township, when an axle on an Ohio Central Railroad train car hauling coal broke off and punctured the fuel tank of an engine. About 1,700 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled.
Officials with the Ohio EPA and employees with SUNPRO Environmental Services of North Canton were on scene to clean up the diesel-fuel spill.
Seward said immediately after the spill, local and state health officials worked to get as much diesel fuel as possible out of the porous land.
An analysis later was conducted near the spill site and in the north end of the Mizer Addition to look for a range of chemicals.
Rebecca Fugitt, residential water and wastewater program administrator for the Ohio Department of Health, said the analysis shows signs of hazardous chemicals without pinpointing which actual chemicals are present.
Outside of the area where the diesel fuel spilled, the analysis detected chemicals that later were discovered to be related to PCE. “We actually came across this by mistake,” Seward said.
According to the ODH, 35 wells were tested for PCE levels. Seward said 10 homes had levels that were more than zero, but less than five micrograms per liter. Five micrograms per liter is the maximum contaminant level. Six residential wells tested positive with levels greater than five micrograms per liter.
“We don’t know how long that chemical has been released in the groundwater,” Fugitt said.
Following the PCE detection, letters were sent June 2 to the residents living in the affected area. PCE was found in some residential wells located along East Gate, Washington and Lincoln avenues.
The health department, the Ohio EPA and the ODH have been working with the county Emergency Management Agency to make residents aware of the chemical to avoid exposure to it.
“We didn’t want them to ingest it in any way,” Seward said.
Drop sites for free water were established and residents in the testing area could get water from the village of Newcomerstown at no cost.
Traces of nitrates also were discovered in the areas that tested positive for PCE. Seward said nitrates typically are found in areas known for farming.
The Ohio EPA’s letter also informed residents on options they can choose — tying in with the village’s water and sewer system or purchasing home-treatment systems.
Seward said there are no historical data on well systems in that area of Oxford Township, so the impact of the contamination is unknown. Seward said the health department is unsure if this problem is acute or chronic, or whether PCE levels will rise.
Fugitt said bottled water is still being supplied to residents living in the affected area. Homeowners in the Mizer Addition who have not had their wells tested can contact the Tuscarawas County Health Department or the ODH for a free test.