Cancer-causing chemical found in 5 private wells in Perryman Residents urged to stop using water VTC

April 04, 1993|By Adriane B. Miller | Adriane B. Miller,Contributing Writer

A chemical believed to cause cancer has been found in five private wells in a Perryman neighborhood, prompting the Harford County Health Department to recommend that the homeowners stop using the water.

The department found levels of carbon tetrachloride, a volatile organic chemical, to be above the safe drinking-water limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in two of the wells.

Woody Williams, an environmental water quality official with the Health Department, said the two wells belong to residents in the 1800 block of Perryman Road. The wells had carbon tetrachloride levels of 8 parts per billion and 8.2 parts per billion when they were tested by the department in March.

The EPA's safety limit for carbon tetrachloride is 5 parts per billion. In general, such limits are designed to protect against an increased risk of cancer or other health problems and are based on decades of exposure to a pollutant.

Three other wells contained the chemical at concentrations below the EPA's safety limit.

The presence of carbon tetrachloride in the water has state and county officials puzzled, and residents of the Forest Greens neighborhood upset.

About 35 residents of the area met Thursday night to discuss the carbon tetrachloride findings with officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment, county Health Department, the

county Department of Public Works and County Councilman Robert S. Wagner, whose District E includes the area.

Joseph Dunn, president of the Forest Greens/Perryman Association, said residents asked the Health Department to sample their well water in March. Trichloroethylene, or TCE, was discovered in county wells east of the community more than two years ago.

No trichloroethylene was found in the residents' wells.

Water supplies were tested twice, on March 3 and March 18.

Daniel Pazdersky, a civil engineer with environmental affairs unit of the Public Works Department, said residents who have contaminated water supplies were advised to install sophisticated filtering equipment or hook up to the county water supply.

Filtering equipment costs up to $2,500 per residence, he said He estimated the costs to tap into the county water line and install a meter to be about $4,090 for each residence.

The cost to install pipes to bring the water into the house woul average an additional $15 a foot.

Pazdersky said the county administration office will try to arrange financing for Perryman residents who want to hook up to county water.

Mr. Williams said not everyone with a private well is obliged t switch to county water.

"The Health Department's only concerns are with the two sites, where concentrations of carbon tetrachloride were above the EPA limit, he said. "We feel the best way for them to go is with

public water." But residents who are unsure of the safety of their water, he said, should make the change too.

Officials said they were puzzled about where the chemical ma be coming from.

"We have no smoking gun here," said Arlene Weiner, a state environment department official. "We're trying to figure out if this is a local problem."

Ms. Weiner said that the state Environment Department, county Public Works and Health departments and Aberdeen Proving Ground are investigating possible sources of the chemical.

Officials from the Environment Department said the proving ground is participating in the investigation by conducting a test of water along its western boundary.

Those tests should be completed in 30 days.

But Mr. Pazdersky said Perryman residents should not hope to find anyone on whom they can pin blame for their water troubles.

"Finding a source, even if it is possible, is going to be a lengthy process," he said. "Unless you identify a source that has some money, you're not going to benefit much."

Charles Futty, who owns one of the residences where high levels of carbon tetrachloride were found, said he was thankful officials responded so quickly to the water contamination problem. He said he was satisfied with the way the county and state were handling the investigation.

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