On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it has added the Cliff Drive groundwater contamination site in Logansport to its Superfund National Priorities List.

In September 2018, the EPA announced that it proposed adding the site at the intersection of Cliff Drive and Ottawa Road. The intersection is just west of the Logansport State Hospital, where PCE, a chemical used in dry cleaning and for metal degreasing treatments, has been found in the wellfield.

PCE, also known as tetrachloroethylene, tetrachloroethene or perchloroethylene, is a toxic, nonflammable carcinogenic liquid.

In an email response to follow-up questions on the 2018 press release, the EPA said "The contamination has been found in municipal wells that supply drinking water to the city of Logansport."

While the municipal water supply meets federal standards, the EPA's follow-up email in 2018 indicated the site should be considered for cleanup because "The state of Indiana remains concerned about the undiscovered source of the contamination that has been constant since 1994, which may present a current or future exposure risk to this community."

The contamination was discovered when "the city of Logansport detected chlorinated solvents in finished water samples and reported it in accordance with state drinking water reporting requirements," according to the EPA's follow-up email. "The Indiana Department of Environmental Management sampled further to locate the source of the contamination."

“Cleaning up groundwater contamination is important to enhance the safety of the drinking water supply in Logansport,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp in a press release issued Monday. “Listing the site is a big step forward in protecting local residents.”

While federal authorities work to ensure wells supplying the city and Logansport State Hospital will not be contaminated, rural Cass County residents have options to ensure their well water is safe.

Logansport mayor Dave Kitchell today asked the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to provide free water testing for Cass County residents who draw water from the same aquifer that supplies the five wells on the Logansport State Hospital campus managed by the Logansport Municipal Utilities.

"The EPA has assured us that our LMU customers and Logansport State Hospital patients and staff are safe and not affected by the contaminant levels found in four of the five wells there," Kitchell said. "Our concern is for the people outside the city limits who are not LMU water customers. They need to know that their water is safe for drinking, cooking and bathing and what precautions they have to take if their water is not safe."

The mayor said there are three options those residents can pursue. One is to contact the Cass County Health Department on High Street. Water samples there will be tested by an independent lab for a nominal fee.

The Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District also has provided a link to well water analysts: https://www.in.gov/isdh/22452.htm

Laboratories listed on the link that test for volatile organic compounds can detect levels of TCE and PCE.

A third option is to secure other independent well tests. If IDEM eventually offers free testing, that would be a fourth option.

Meanwhile, environmental and local officials will be collaborating on determining the source of the contamination. Currently, the groundwater plume has no identified source.

The mayor said the Superfund list underscores the work the city has done to clean up contaminated areas of the city with a $600,000 federal brownfield grant, the largest awarded in Indiana in 2016.

"The city has virtually exhausted that funding we secured through our relationship with Fulton County and Eel Township," Kitchell said. "We hope to secure more brownfield funding in the future because people deserve and expect safe environmental conditions below ground, in the water and in the air."

The municipal water supply is being treated and meets the Safe Drinking Water Act standards, according to the IDEM.

The NPL includes the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned releases of contamination, according to the EPA. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing EPA Superfund cleanup funding and enforcement actions.

“By adding these sites to the National Priorities List, we are taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect the health of the local communities, and return the sites to safe and productive reuse,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in Monday's statement. “Our commitment to these communities is that sites on the National Priorities List will be a true national priority. We’ve elevated the Superfund program to a top priority, and in Fiscal Year 2018, EPA deleted all or part of 22 sites from the NPL, the largest number of deletions in one year since Fiscal Year 2005.”

For information on Cliff Drive Groundwater Contamination site: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/cliff-drive-groundwater

Reach Quentin Blount at quentin.blount@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130.

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