By Arthur E. Foulkes
TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute City Council voted 6-3 Thursday night to drop a proposal to spend $150,000 to extend city water service into an neighborhood where groundwater has been contaminated with perchloroethylene (PCE).
“I understand the frustration,” said Councilman Rich Dunkin, D-1st, speaking to around 20 residents of Edgebrook subdivision who attended Thursday night’s City Council meeting. However, Dunkin added, “This is not the body that can help you,”
Dunkin and other councilmen urged the residents to contact their state legislator, Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, or Gov. Mitch Daniels in order to put pressure on the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in Indianapolis to resolve the situation.
“That’s important,” agreed Councilman Norm Loudermilk, D-3rd, who spearheaded the Edgebrook Water Extension proposal.
Council President Todd Nation, D-4th, Councilman Jim Chalos and Loudermilk all voted against withdrawing the proposal.
Loudermilk represents Edgebrook, which is south of Terre Haute North Vigo High School, on the council. He charges that Standard Register, a document management company that used to print labels at a nearby location, was negligent in handling PCE disposal and poisoned the groundwater of the neighborhood.
Standard Register “caused people probably to have cancer all because they chose not to handle their business properly,” Loudermilk said. “It’s absolutely their fault,” he said.
Standard Register, which is based in Dayton, Ohio, operated a printing facility on North Fruitridge Avenue from 1981 to 2006. When the company sold the property to another business, testing found the groundwater was contaminated with PCE.
“We continue to do testing of both our old site as well as throughout the areas that could be contaminated,” said Tom Furey, chief supply chain officer for Standard Register. “Our testing continues to be consistent with our original conclusion of where the contamination plume was and where there is likely to be impact and no impact,” he said. “We don’t feel we are undershooting at all the number of people that we should hook up to water.”
Standard Register, working under the supervision of state officials, has paid to hook some residents of Edgebrook up to city water, Furey said. The company has also paid residents to compensate them for the cost of 10 years of city water service, he said.
Deron Allen, an official with Indiana American Water Company, told the council it would cost around $300,000 to provide water to all of the residents of Edgebrook. The water main extension would be just under a mile, he said, adding that nearly all residents would need to hook up to city water to make the extension cost effective.
“Maybe some type of deal can be worked out,” Loudermilk told Allen. Indiana American Water might agree to do the job for less because “it’s not always about making money. It’s about doing the right thing,” he said.
Standard Register does not acknowledge it caused the contamination problem; however, Furey said it is the company’s responsibility to assist those affected by the contamination.
“Our testing continues to support the conclusion that the contamination occurred at a period well before Standard Register owned the property,” Furey said.
Gary Carpenter, a resident of Edgebrook, spoke at the meeting and urged his neighbors to join a group to put pressure on officials to extend water service to the neighborhood. “We need to organize,” he told the small crowd gathered at the meeting.
Another resident of Edgebrook, Jean Burnett, said her well water was tested six months ago and found to be safe enough to drink. However, she worries that there has been no testing since the June flood.
“Since the flood, there hasn’t been anyone to test my water to see if it is fit to drink,” she said. “It still may be good water, but how do I know that.”
Standard Register is testing the groundwater each quarter, Furey said. “We anticipate being involved with this for quite some time.”
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.