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Quincy seeks cheapest way to get clean water

November 14, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

QUINCY, PA. -- It might take a few more years to eradicate the problem of contaminated wells in Quincy Township, but one township official said he is committed to finding the solution least burdensome to taxpayers.

Supervisor Kerry Bumbaugh said his vote will go to the solution drawing the least amount of money out of residents' pockets each month.

"Quincy is home to mostly low- to moderate-income residents, some who already struggle to pay their taxes and sewer bills," he said. "My biggest concern is balancing what it will cost now with what it will cost our residents every month for water."

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found trichloroethylene (TCE) at levels ranging from trace amounts to 31 parts per billion during testing in October 2006.

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TCE can cause a number of health problems when ingested, inhaled or contacted by skin. Many homes in the area near Tomstown have been restricted to bottled water use for the last two years.

The Hazardous Sites Cleanup program of DEP issued a Notice of Proposed Remedial Response in late July, suggesting the only way to fully eradicate the TCE problem is to move residents to a public water system and abandon all affected wells, said John Krueger, program manager for DEP's Environmental Cleanup Program.

DEP estimated spending $2.9 million to connect residents to clean water, Krueger said.

While the state agency will shoulder the upfront cost, Bumbaugh said he is looking 10 to 20 years down the road when DEP is out of the picture and the residents are paying the bill.

Quincy is "shopping around" for a solution that will pass the least cost on to residents, Bumbaugh said.

The township secured a $12,000 tech evaluation grant to study the possible solutions, he said.

DEP recommended connecting about 100 affected homes to public water supplied by Washington Township, Krueger said.

Supervisors met Wednesday with the Washington Township Municipal Authority (WTMA) and DEP representatives to discuss adding Quincy Township as a commercial customer.

Despite WTMA's assurances that it has the capacity to add Quincy as a customer, the supervisors were not ready to commit on Wednesday.

"The infrastructure being engineered at this time will not change if we decide to go another route besides Washington Township," Bumbaugh said. "The only change will be the connection point."

Engineer Ronald J. Horton of Rural Engineering and Community Assistance Inc. in Gettysburg, Pa., was hired by Quincy Township to evaluate DEP's suggestion of connecting to Washington Township water.

Washington Township is the closest source of public water for the homes, but Horton said he is evaluating pumping public water from the Borough of Waynesboro and the Borough of Mont Alto as well. Quincy also could construct its own public water system, he said.

For now, both DEP and Quincy are waiting for Dec. 15, when the tech evaluation will be completed and the comment period on the notice closes.

Despite Bumbaugh's staunch position on the issue, he said the final decision of where the water comes from will fall to DEP.

"Ultimately, our hands are tied," he said. "Because they are paying for it, DEP has the final say."

After two years, DEP has been unable to find the source of the contamination, which has been a thorn in Quincy's side as it moves forward, Bumbaugh said.

"What we don't know is what happens when we cap off these wells," he said. "If the contaminants stay in the (water), it could flow down to another customer who has until then tested negative for TCE."

Quincy Township has suggested connecting between 100 and 225 homes to public water for fear the contaminated water might move downstream when affected wells are abandoned.

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