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Pa. residents contend with contaminated water

February 01, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

QUINCY, PA.

Dawn Moats' drinking water passes through a water filtration system, water softener, ultraviolet light and a filter on the refrigerator before the first drop splashes into a glass.

Yet, last fall, she was told that her well water could kill her someday.

"I know it's been a concern in this area for bacteria, but we thought with all the precautions we had taken we were safe. ... I was wrong," she said.

Moats' home on Mentzer Gap Road was one of 26 in Quincy Township that tested positive for trichloroethylene contamination during Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection testing in October 2006. The chemical can be linked to cancers, liver and kidney damage, and impaired heart function with long-term exposure.

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On Lofty Heights Road, Christopher and Jana Wishard now draw a bath for their two young children, turn the bathroom fan on and wait 10 to 15 minutes before allowing the children to contact the TCE-contaminated water.

Even with the next DEP truck of bottled water on its way, the Wishards are preparing to install a $3,000 to $5,000 carbon filtration system for greater protection. The couple worries about continued contact with their water while the DEP investigates the pollution source and seeks to remedy the situation.

"At this point, it could be a year to three years for a final resolution," Jana Wishard said. "I'm not willing to wait that long."

DEP officials said the contamination - found on Shank Hess, Lofty Heights, Mentzer Gap and Tomstown roads - could have come from something as isolated as a five-gallon bucket of chemicals tossed into a hole decades ago.

A DEP spokeswoman said Monday that the agency is continuing to test elsewhere to determine the extent of the contamination. The department has been providing bottled water to 12 homes and installed a carbon system for the one that had the worst test results.

The Moatses are preparing to sell their house and build one on nearby Monns Gap Road. The move worries Dawn Moats for two reasons.

First, she doesn't want to and can't sell a house with contaminated water. And, DEP officials have told her the TCE could have spread and infiltrated other parts of the aquifer, meaning it could be found on Monns Gap Road.

"There may be concerns about drilling the well because of fractures in the system," Moats said.

Wishard and Joe Skoskie, of Shank Hess Road, said that while there is contamination in their wells, immediate neighbors had satisfactory test results. Skoskie had a $1,150 carbon system installed as soon as he received a TCE report of 10 parts per billion - twice the public drinking standard - in his water.

"I'm the type of person (that) I don't wait for someone to do something. I did it myself because it affects your health," Skoskie said.

Soon after Skoskie built his house in 1994, he learned that he had iron in his water. In response, he installed an iron filter, water softener and ultraviolet light.

The new carbon system has reduced his test results to .8 parts per billion, yet Skoskie isn't fully satisfied.

"I'd like to find the source. That bothers me," he said.

Moats and Wishard want their neighbors to realize that the contamination exists, that it might affect more than first believed and that it could worsen.

"I think it's a real concern for everyone, not just the ones affected now," Moats said.

"There is a real problem," Wishard said.

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