By John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer
In July of 2010 the Town of Louisa embarked on a project to secure additional water sources for the town’s water system. One of the potential sources was determined to be the ACME well near the southeast corporate limits off Route 33. Since the well had not been in use for 20 years, according to Town Manager Brian Marks, water quality and safety testing were deemed mandatory as the first step in the reactivation process.
Tests conducted by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) shortly thereafter showed the presence of the toxic chemical tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene or ‘perk’, in quantities far in excess of the .005 milligrams per liter (.005 mg/L) level that is mandated as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The actual levels detected have yet to be published by the EPA. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers the substance to be a carcinogen and recommends minimal contact. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry provided further information on the contaminant.
A second round of tests was conducted in October of 2010 to determine whether the first test was detecting a transient event. The results indicated a similar level of contamination as the earlier tests, so the contamination was duly reported to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ). The VDH then identified four residential properties using private wells, and also a shared well serving a mobile home park, whose residents were potentially at risk of contamination. The VDH contacted the EPA for assistance in sampling these wells.
EPA officials were able to obtain permission to sample three of the wells and determined that the water posed a health risk to the residents. The decision was made and implemented to provide bottled water until the affected residences could be connected to the town water supply.
Further testing has yet to determine either the source of, or the extent of the contamination though several other residential wells that have been tested also showed elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene. These residences are also being supplied with bottled water at no cost until they can be connected to the town’s supply. These residents have been advised to refrain from using the well water for drinking, cooking or bathing.
As of February, 2011, the EPA is conducting further tests to determine the full extent of the contamination and to attempt to identify the origin of the tetrachloroethylene. Testing at the former ACME plant from which the well derives its name showed no indications of contamination from that source.
John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org