Glouco firm: Only handful of private wells have detectable contaminant

Posted: June 27, 2014

The West Deptford company believed responsible for the spread of chemicals in the water supplies of several Gloucester County towns said Wednesday that its testing of private wells showed only a handful had "quantifiable" levels of the contaminant.

Solvay Specialty Polymers had agreed to test about 90 wells in West Deptford and East Greenwich, as local, state, and federal officials have turned their attention to the contamination.

Of the identified wells, the results from 50 have been sampled and verified, Solvay said in a statement, and seven have detectable levels of the specific perfluorinated compound (PFC) - perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) - above 2.5 parts per trillion.

The contaminant has caused public wells to be shut down in several municipalities. Among those, Paulsboro's 150 parts per trillion was the highest reported.

Solvay declined to release the levels in the private wells tested, citing the privacy of property owners. Solvay spokesman David Klucsik said the company would not release the levels without identifying information, nor would it comment on whether any wells had levels above that in Paulsboro.

"We're not publicizing that information," Klucsik said, adding that the property owners and the state were informed of the levels.

Solvay - which maintains that its testing and offering of bottled water to residents does not implicate the business as at fault - said in its release that gaps between the affected wells signaled that "other potential sources for PFNA may exist in the study area." A state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, Larry Ragonese, said other sources are possible.

PFCs are not regulated, but an advisory panel to the DEP, the Drinking Water Quality Institute, is reviewing a health-based maximum contaminant level for PFNA and related contaminants. An interim groundwater criterion for PFNA - 20 parts per trillion - is also being considered.

PFNA, although understudied, has triggered serious health concerns. The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the state Department of Health will be investigating the presence of the contaminant in the area.

In West Deptford, Ed Komczyk, 75, learned Wednesday morning, after months of uncertainty, that his home's main water well was cleared of any significant contamination.

"This means I don't need to be worrying," said Komczyk, a member of the town's environmental commission.

Klucsik said the results of other private wells should be validated in coming weeks. He said an analysis would determine if further studies were warranted.

For the municipalities, though, the status of off-line public wells remains at a standstill.

East Greenwich Mayor Dale Archer said the town is having an independent analysis of its affected supply, but said it would not be used until the state issues acceptable standards for the contaminant.

"Our well is shut down," he said, "and will continue to be shut down."


afichera@philly.com

856-779-3917 @AJFichera

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