Delaware trying to determine source of Newark water contamination

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The State of Delaware is asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency to provide funds in an effort to tackle contaminants in the city of Newark’s ground water.

For several years volatile organic compounds have contaminated the ground water at the Newark South Well Field, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. VOCs are found in some industrial and commercial products, and can cause adverse human health effects if not addressed, DNREC said.

In order to address the issue, a treatment system was installed in 2002 to treat the ground water and ensure drinking water met federal and state criteria. DNREC said the water meets those standards, and Newark residents are not adversely affected by the contamination.

Numerous investigations conducted by DNREC to determine the source or sources of the contamination and its extent have been unsuccessful, however.

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The department’s funding has decreased about 40 percent in the last year, because its funding source is tied to the price of gasoline. Due to the budget cuts, the department must seek additional funding from the federal government, said Timothy Ratsep, the environmental program administrator for DNREC’s site investigation and restoration section.

He said his department is asking for the site to be placed on the national priority list so federal funds can be used to investigate the issue and find the source or sources of the contamination. Once achieved, federal funds can mitigate or clean up the source.

“We would like to remediate the source, so the public drinking water wells, even though it is pumping and treating the ground water, we don’t want that to be the final end of the remedy,” Ratsep said. “We would like to address the source, either removal or other remedial action, to address the sources so it doesn’t get to the well field.”

Officials from DNREC, the Department of Public Health, the EPA and the city of Newark will hold a public informational meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall Auditorium 125 at 100 Hollowell Drive in Newark. Newark residents will listen to a presentation and will be able to ask questions.

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