The U.S. EPA is investigating the source of dangerous water contamination in Kokomo, IN, since it wants the original polluter to pay for the cleanup.
The pollutant vinyl chloride was found in municipal water wells in Kokomo eight years ago. The agency recently beefed up the effort to clean up this area, adding Kokomo to a list of prioritized hazardous waste sites.
The list includes “the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned sites in the country. EPA’s goal is to convert [these] sites into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination,” according to the agency.
State regulators and the federal government are working to determine the source “so that appropriate actions can be taken,” according to the EPA.
Despite the investigation, the source of the contaminant remains mysterious.
“State authorities have identified [at least] fourteen handlers of chlorinated solvents in the area that could be contributing to the contaminated groundwater plume. Despite several investigations in the area, the exact origin of the contaminants is unknown,” the agency says.
Vinyl chloride is used to make plastics and is frequently found at rubber, paper, and glass factories, according to the EPA. Leaching from pipes and discharge from plastic factories can push the contaminant into the water supply. The federal limit for drinking water is 0.002 mg/L or 2 ppb.
Indiana American Water employs a filter system that renders tap water safe to drink despite the contamination. But those who rely on wells may have cause for concern, according to Kirk Kuroiwa, water quality supervisor at Kokomo’s Indiana American Water treatment plant.
“There are pockets within the city where people might be using a residential well for their water,” Kuroiwa said, per CBS 4. “That would be a bigger concern because that water would not be tested and they wouldn’t have the technology to remove the contaminants.”
Kuroiwa stressed the danger of the contaminant.
“These are chronic contaminants that over a long period of time, if you consume them, they could cause cancer and affect the liver,” he said, per the report.
CBS 4 listed the companies that may be culpable: “RACER/Motors Liquidation Co (former GM Delco Plant 5), Millbank Manufacturing, Coan Engineering Transmission, Padfields Auto Body, Stite Cleaners, Omnisource, PPG, Hunt’s Salvage & Coal Yards, Delphi Plant 1, Wiese Collision Repair, Wiese Oldsmobile GMC Inc., Chrysler, GMCH-Kokomo, ASF Partnership, and an empty industrial building north of the water treatment plant.”
&Since Kokomo is now a superfund site prioritized by the feds, it could quality for long-term cleanup funding if polluters are not located.