News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 10, 2013

Residents uncertain about Terre Town water

TERRE HAUTE — It’s easy to take safe drinking water for granted. Turn a tap and there it is.

But what if you were uncertain about your water’s safety?

That’s what some of the residents of Terre Town, a northside neighborhood, are living with on a daily basis, according to Gail Phillips, president of the neighborhood association.

Many — about half — of the homes in Terre Town get their water from wells while the rest are connected to water from Indiana American Water Co. Some well-water residents are worried there may be hazardous contaminants in their water, Phillips said.

“What’s going on around here?” Phillips said many residents are asking, concerned about instances of cancer among family, neighbors and pets.

Years ago, a check of the groundwater near a former J.I. Case facility north of Terre Town uncovered a cancer-causing compound known as Trichloroe thylene (TCE), said Rick Milton, an Indiana Department of Environmental Management official conducting a preliminary assessment of Terre Town.

However, the TCE was discovered “down gradient” from the neighborhood, which is a little like being down wind — the contaminants should be flowing toward the Wabash River, away from Terre Town and not into it, he said.

Still, Milton said just the fact that TCE was discovered near the neighborhood is enough reason to study the situation further.

“There’s TCE in the groundwater near Terre Town,” he said. “That’s enough for me.”

So, for now, IDEM is doing a check of the history of Terre Town, to see what the neighborhood looked like in the past. Especially, this means checking old records to see if there were any manufacturing plants or dumps in or near the area. If this turns up worrying signs, a full-fledged site investigation would be the next step.

Aerial photos of Terre Town dating back to about 1939 show no signs of manufacturing facilities — a frequent source of contamination, Milton said. However, the area has been home to several gravel pits, which are sometimes used as dump sites, he noted.

Meanwhile, Phillips and Milton urge Terre Town residents to have their wells tested for TCE or other serious problems, and soon. For a federally funded site investigation to take place in 2014, Milton’s preliminary check must be completed by the end of this month.

Milton also urges residents to contact him before paying for a well test. That way, he can be sure the test is conducted appropriately. Otherwise, it could be money wasted, he said.

Ideally, Terre Town could conduct about three well tests, evenly spaced and at different depths, Milton said. Perhaps the neighborhood association or other source could help pay for the testing, he suggested.

A full, “A to Z” test of well water can cost between $175 and $200, said Mike Byrd, regional sales manager for Rankin EcoWater, a company with several well-water clients in Terre Town.



Well Water Test

• Terre Town residents planning a well water test should first contact Gail Phillips, neighborhood association president, at (325) 315-0683 or by email at gail.phillips1@

frontier.com.

• Also, residents with records of past tests for “volatile organic compounds” should also contact Phillips.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

 

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