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Editorial – October 6, 2021

By Staff | Oct 6, 2021

In a recent letter to Paden City residents, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated they had completed its site inspection of the Paden City Groundwater Site. The result from the inspection concluded the site posed a risk and may require long-term cleanup.

On September 9, 2021 the EPA proposed the site to be added to the National Priority List (NPL). That is a list of the most serious sites throughout the country that may qualify for long-term cleanup. Once the EPA proposes a site for cleanup, they publish a rule in the Federal Register about their intention and they notify the community. Following which they hold a 60 day comment period for the community members to comment on the proposal.

Paden City has had a long history of water problems dating back as far as the early 1980’s, most of which was contributed to lead or corrosion in pipes. More recently, the residents have become aware of a much more dangerous contaminate plaguing the entire community.

The small community, located along the Ohio River in Tyler and Wetzel counties, has faced years of contaminated water from a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning called Tetrachloroethylene or PCE.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers PCE to be “likely cariogenic”. Studies have linked exposure to an increased risk of cancer, reproductive and developmental effects and neurological impacts. These are common complaints that many Paden City residents have expressed in past years. Many of whom are no longer with us.

EPA officials have confirmed PCE has been present in the city-run water system for at least a decade often at levels above federal drinking water standards.

The first known time PCE was detected and reported in Paden City was in 2010. The city installed three air strippers to filter out the chemical then, but in 2018, one of the strippers failed and the city testing begin showing levels of PCE above the federal maximum contaminant level for PCE at 5 parts per billion.

Although regular reports were not made public, many believe the level of PCE could have been much higher. Then, in the fall of 2019, another air stripper failed and officials found levels of PCE of 21 ppb. The failed air stripper was repaired in 2020, but high levels of PCE were still present and residents organized to conduct local health surveys and hand out bottled drinking water.

In the first half of 2020, work began on a new water treatment plant with new air strippers. It was completed sometime in May and testing according to city officials has shown little or no presense of PCE. Monthly testing was to continue for the next year, with quarterly sampling to be ongoing in accordance with federal law.

Meanwhile, resident notification of testing results has been non-exsistent, leaving many still in doubt. The EPA’s investigation centered around the old Band Box Dry Cleaners which closed in 1975, leaving residents wondering how long the soil has actually been contaminated.

The EPA started conducting its assessment in 2018 at the behest of the WVDEP which asked for help identifying the source of contamination in the city’s four public wells. Since January 2020, water and soil samples taken have shown there could be a 63 acre area of contaminated groundwater from the old dry cleaners to the four wells used by the city for drinking water. Further investigation centered around two other former dry cleaners as possible sources of contamination, including vapor intrusion entering into people’s homes.

Results from the investigations show the Band Box Cleaners site as a possible Superfund cleanup site which will make the site eligible for federal assistance and longterm cleanup.

The city is making significant progress installing new water lines around town. If you notice discolored water when running your water, chances are they are working somewhere nearby to make things better. Once the new water and sewer system is complete and all the new lines installed. We should see some streets getting paved. Things are on the upturn and more improvements are being planned.

So it’s important that each resident who received a letter from the EPA to respond so they can make a proper decision about the Superfund cleanup. It’s it the best interest of your health and safety!