TCE still contaminating water near Wake Forest community - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

TCE still contaminating water near Wake Forest community

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. -

The Environmental Protection Agency updated the Wake Forest community impacted by well water contaminated with the cancer causing chemical called TCE.

The EPA has been holding similar meetings to update families on the status of their water.

A WNCN investigation revealed that the state knew chemicals were present in dozens of private wells in the Wake Forest area, but claimed it did not have the resources to tell anyone about it.

The discovery led to the passing of state law in June 2013 requiring more testing for drilling wells. Well testers are also required to tell well owners what is and is not being tested for in the basic water test.

Families who had unknowingly been drinking the tainted water for years say they are still worried.

The latest test results from water collected in December from the contaminated wells shows TCE in the groundwater does not seem to be dissipating. The EPA says the chemical does not seem to be spreading against the natural downward flow of the terrain.

The EPA says most of the levels have remained the same, but there were sites that had higher levels of TCE than previous tests showed.

One resident's initial water test from about a year and a half ago showed TCE at levels around 40 ppm. The latest test showed those levels are now at over 400 ppm. The EPA says fluctuation is common and it believes the toxin is making its way to the surface water. The TCE will then evaporate.

However, the EPA says this will take decades.

The EPA and the Department of Natural Resources also want the public's opinion on who should take over the investigation going forward. The EPA can continue to lead the investigation, or it can be deferred to DENR.

You can find more information and give your input here.

"In any case we work together," explained Wendel, "The EPA will be reviewing the state's work and results of the investigation and vice-versa."

Jennifer Wendel with the EPA says both options will start to assess any future clean-up and monitoring.

Wendel says either way, any possible clean-up will take years to complete.

As TCE continues to move, many residents are concerned about other wells becoming contaminated.

"I'd love to see life-saving measures first like springing a water pipe serving the whole area," said nearby resident Larry Kusan, who has extensively studied the issue. "What's in the ground, if it stays there for 300 years it really doesn't matter as long as the water that comes to people's homes is safe and clean."

After the TCE was discovered, residents with contaminated wells were given new water lines through Aqua NC. The EPA paid for these lines but says that money has to be paid back.

The agency is now in the process of holding the parties responsible for the contamination liable for damage done, actions already taken, any continuous monitoring, and any further damage the TCE contamination may cause. Residents asked for a list of the responsible parties but were told that information could not be released.

Wendel says the EPA plans to seal off most of the contaminated wells but want to leave some open for further monitoring. 

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    Jonathan Rodriguez

    Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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    Poison in the Water

    There are at least 2,000 sites statewide where DENR knows there is TCE contamination that is likely spreading into the water of unsuspecting families. More>>

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