Funding for contamination cleanup could run out

January 19, 2007

QUINCY, Pa. - Residents learning more about chemical contamination in their wells were told Thursday by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that, in a "worst-case scenario," all efforts to mitigate the problem could stop in June.

No funding has yet been secured from the state for the Hazardous Sites Cleanup program for the next fiscal year, officials said.

The program's funding and future have been in limbo every year for about four years, and contractors are leery of working with it, officials said.

"It's been kind of crippling," DEP Spokeswoman Sandra J. Roderick said.

Bottled water distribution for Quincy Township residents with contaminated wells will continue at least through the end of 2007, DEP Project Manager Ruth Bishop said.


Without funding, further well testing and the investigation into the contamination's source would end, officials said.

The five DEP representatives at the public meeting made funding appeals to state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, and a representative of state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin.

"I just find it appalling that a state with a multimillion-dollar budget would have any problem funding something as grassroots as the health and welfare of residents in these communities. How in the world does the state justify not having a program like this in place on a permanent basis?" said Paul Gunder, a Mentzer Gap Road resident whose proposed housing development caused the initial well testing.

"I can't believe you have to renew this every year and grovel for funding," Gunder said.

The Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act provided the DEP with the authority and funding to clean up sites with hazardous materials, according to the DEP's Web site.


Tricholoroethylene (TCE) is a colorless liquid once used in popular solvents, adhesives and paint removers. It was mostly used from the 1960s until the 1980s, when new regulations caused industries to seek alternatives.

TCE particles are heavier than water particles, so they can sink to the bottoms of wells. The chemical can stick to water particles and be transported through an aquifer.

Evaporation of TCE creates inhalation problems for humans.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reported that breathing small amounts of TCE can cause headaches, dizziness, lung irritation and difficulty concentrating. Larger amounts can impair heart function or cause unconsciousness or death, the agency reported.

Drinking TCE over a prolonged period can result in cancers, liver and kidney damage, and impaired immune system function.

TCE also can cause skin rashes on contact.

Source: The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

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