EPA Tests Wells after Chem Fire

Friday, June 19, 2015 @ 11:06 AM gHale

Samples ended up collected Tuesday from four private wells that may have suffered contamination after the June 8 fire at Miller Chemical in Conewago, PA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials said.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) received phones calls last week from residents in York and Adams counties concerned about contaminants seeping into their water supply. Polluted runoff from the plant site killed more than 10,000 fish in local waterways, including Conewago Creek, DEP representative John Repetz said.

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Though the DEP doesn’t regulate private wells, it collected resident’s contact information and proved it to the EPA, which then determined four properties most likely impacted, he said.

Repetz said he did not know the locations of the four wells. EPA did not return any calls.

Several of the federal organization’s representatives collecting water samples Tuesday from the four wells, said Repetz and Adams County’s emergency services Director John Eline.

The DEP also began preliminary soil testing in the areas surrounding Miller Chemical that potentially suffered contamination from the runoff, Repetz said.

In the meantime, the ban on swimming, boating and fishing is still in place for the Conewago Creek, Eline said.

Though the creek is showing little to no signs of discoloration, Miller Chemical’s environmental cleanup crew is still working to pump contaminated water from the surrounding area, Repetz said.

A storage tank, capable of holding a million gallons of fluid, is now available at the Miller Chemical site to help collect some of the remaining water in swales and the retention pond, Eline said. The tank will retain the water until it can undergo testing, Repetz said. The results will help officials to determine which waste treatment facility can properly treat the water, he said.

Right now, DEP officials’ main priority, he said, is to ensure the creek has run clear so the New Oxford Municipal Authority can begin collecting its own water again.

The New Oxford area has been relying on an interconnection with York Water Company to provide it with water since June 8, said Jeff Hines, York Water Company president.

The interconnection, or large pipe, ended up developed two or three years ago in case of an emergency like the fire, Hines said, adding the company has similar connections with other water companies.

This is the first time the company has had to use the interconnect with New Oxford, he said. Hines wasn’t sure how long the company would need to continue providing the water but noted doing so doesn’t put any strain on the company’s supply.

“We’ll provide as much as New Oxford needs,” Hines said. “We’ll have the capacity to provide that.”

The company gets its water from Codorus Creek, which does not connect with Conewago Creek.