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Delaware well tainted with exotic toxin linked to superfund site.

A hard-to-remove toxic chemical that surfaced in a deep new Artesian Water Co. well south of New Castle has heated up debate over financial responsibility for fouled public water supplies and the effectiveness of a more-than-30-year Superfund cleanup effort.

State and federal officials say they are confident the high levels of the likely carcinogen 1,4 dioxane, found in an Artesian well under Llangollen Estates, escaped from the Delaware Sand & Gravel Landfill federal Superfund site, nearly a mile to the north off Grantham Lane.

Artesian shut down the well before it went into regular use, but officials acknowledged that lower levels of the same chemical were detected last year in other wells that are part of the utility's large regional supply complex around Llangollen Boulevard.

It was the second time since 2000 that a relatively exotic pollutant from the Delaware Sand & Gravel Superfund site has crept into Artesian wells at problem levels. The earlier episode, involving a rare but more easily removed chemical, cost Artesian more than $1 million and upset residents who said they should have received earlier notification.

Although the EPA has yet to set a limit for 1,4 dioxane, peak concentrations in the new well were 30 times higher than the state drinking water limit in California, and nearly 300 times higher than Massachusetts'.

Delaware Sand & Gravel was listed as a national priority Superfund site in 1982. The former quarry was used for the disposal of industrial chemicals beginning in 1969 and was shut down after a state enforcement action in 1976. By that time, one three-acre section had 13,000 chemical-filled drums and another area had mixed chemical wastes buried 30 to 40 feet deep.

A cleanup trust, financed by parties responsible for the waste, operates the site and finances work there. Removal and groundwater protection efforts, the EPA noted, have only been "somewhat successful."

The EPA identifies 1,4 dioxane as an industrial solvent and stabilizer used in a variety of industries, including some cosmetics. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has set 6 parts per billion in groundwater as the trigger point for assessments of risk and cleanup needs.

The EPA reported levels up to 89 parts per billion in Artesian's new well. An EPA general health advisory summary released last year noted a potential risk of one additional cancer death per 10,000 people after lifetime use of water with 35 parts per billion of dioxane, or 10 to 100 times the preferred-risk goal of many state and federal programs.

Source: Jeff Montgomery, The News Journal

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Publication:Hazardous Waste Superfund Alert
Geographic Code:1U5DE
Date:May 10, 2013
Words:426
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