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Many people who live in rural communities find themselves drinking one of nature’s purest resources: well water. But, with contaminants being found in local wells around the Ozarks is your water as “pure” as you think? KSMU’s Chasity Mayes reports.
Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources or DNR has done another round of testing on private drinking wells west and southwest of Rogersville only to discover one more contaminated well. Since early June, DNR has tested 121 wells in the Rogersville area and found that 13 of those wells are contaminated with Trichloroethylene, or TCE in levels that exceed federal drinking water standards.
TCE, which is commonly used to degrease metal parts, can also be found in adhesives, paint removers, and typewriter correction fluids.
Mark Schrader is an environmental chemist with PDC Labs which has several locations in Missouri. He says it’s not a surprise to find this type of contaminant in Missouri’s well water.
“Prior to 1985 a lot of clients would just dispose of the solvents by just digging a lagoon or a hole back out behind the industry and either buried the drums or you know, spread it in a lagoon thinking that the TCE would evaporate in the air. But TCE has an affinity to groundwater,” says Schrader.
The goal of DNR’s latest effort was to determine the extent of TCE contamination in area wells. DNR says identifying the source of the contaminant is a challenge because of the Ozark’s complex geology. Caves, springs, and sinkholes make it more difficult, but by figuring out how TCE is distributed through area groundwater, investigators will then be able to find a potential source. Current and past businesses are already being examined.
Schrader says past businesses are a good place to start when looking for the contaminant’s source.
“Past ’85, industries are regulated and they practiced a lot better housekeeping skills by disposing it in a proper manner,” says Schrader.
Missouri’s DNR says residents have been notified in the Rogersville area. The department recently got access to the well that tested positive for excessive TCE. The well is located in the original sampling area and on the same road as the previous four contaminated wells. The department plans to resample that well to confirm the result.
Schrader says there are two main ways to treat this type of contamination. One way involves adding chemicals to the well. The other option is for the water to be pumped out of the ground and treated at a facility. Either way, he says it’s very treatable.
“Engineers will debate on one treatment method or another depending on the severity of contamination and how deep it is in the carst groundwater underneath,” says Schrader.
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that consuming excess amounts of TCE for many years could lead to liver problems and an increased risk of cancer.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is addressing any health concerns for residents whose well water has shown TCE contamination.
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For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.