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TCE Taints 26th Well

Trichloroethylene (TCE) has been found in another well in Broad Run Farms, two and a half years after authorities tested 68 properties and discovered the carcinogen in 22 wells, officials say.

The well is located on the front lawn of the 20000 block of Redrose Drive. TCE is a chemical used to remove grease from metal parts. Exposure to water with small amounts of TCE over long periods of time can cause liver and kidney damage, impaired immune system, function and impaired fetal development in pregnant women, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said.

"It is such a small concentration, it is not likely it is spreading," Alan Brewer, chief of Environmental Health said Monday. "It is highly possible the TCE was there before but not at the lab’s detention limit."

Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department, agreed. "What I would be concerned about are two types of findings. If we find positive results in areas further west or south than we have in the past that would be a potential indicator."

The second type would be if the county tests found higher concentrations of TCE in the wells that already have been identified as contaminated, he said. The county has not retested those wells, he added.

Brewer said he was not surprised that TCE had been found in another well. "The well was pretty close to the others."

GOODFRIEND SAID THE TCE level in the newly discovered well was less than the EPA would say is problematic. TCE levels at .005 parts per billion or higher are considered harmful, he added. The newly discovered TCE level was .001 parts per billion, bringing the total number of wells with TCE contaminants up to 26.

Brewer explained how the number of contaminated wells grew from 22 to 26. First, construction of a house required new well testing and TCE was discovered there. Two additional wells were identified when the owners declined the county’s offer to do an analysis and then asked the EPA to do the testing instead, he said.

Every quarter, for the past two years, the Loudoun County Health Department and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality were each testing four wells that had shown no signs of TCE to determine if the carcinogen was spreading. The wells were in Broad Run Farms and Countryside.

Brewer said the Broad Run Farms stakeholders group asked the county to test one of the DEQ’s wells because the area was experiencing a drought. The Health Department tested the latest confirmed contaminated well in August, and the findings became available last week, he said. The county resumed testing the other four sites in September and found no new traces of TCE in them.

Eric DeJonghe, vice president of the Broad Run Farms Civic Association, said he asked for the test on behalf of the stakeholders because the aquifers were lower and they wondered if that would make a difference in which direction the TCE might flow.

Brewer said the drought would only affect the deep wells if it lasted two or three years or if the wells had been shallow instead of deep.

THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT waited 16 years to do widespread testing of Broad Run Farms’ wells after discovering two wells with TCE in 1989 and another six wells over the next 15 years. Twenty-two wells were found to have TCE in March 2005.

State and county officials offered free filtration systems as a solution. State, local and federal officials have acknowledged that the Hidden Lane landfill, located adjacent to Broad Run Farms and Countryside in Sterling, could be the source of the TCE. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed adding it to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).

The 25-acre landfill operated without a county permit from 1971 to 1984, and repeatedly violated restrictions on what was allowed to be dumped at the site, Office of Waste Management records indicate. County and state officials have said they cannot identify everything that was placed in the ground

Goodfriend said the Health Department recommends that residents living next to the properties with TCE in their wells have their water tested and consider installing filtration systems. "We can’t guarantee to any homeowner living adjacent to a well that it wouldn’t become contaminated in the future," he said. "We are asking they consider what makes sense for them."

DAVID STERNBERG, an EPA spokesman, said the proposal to add the landfill to the Superfund NPL is followed by a 60-day comment period and about four additional months to handle responses to the comments. If it makes the NPL, the EPA will conduct further tests, conduct a feasibility study and remove the source of the contamination, he said. The process could take five to 15 years depending on the complexity of the contamination and the remedy.

Under the Superfund guidelines, the owner, operator, transporter or generator of the waste can be held liable, he said. "We have civil investigators that do a very thorough job in looking to identify the possible responsible parties," he said. The EPA has successfully identified transporters and generators of the waste at other Superfund sites even after the debris has been in the landfill for numerous years, he said.

Philip W. Smith and Albert E. Moran owned the landfill. Smith, predeceased by Moran, died March 31. He was a resident of Oakton. "Under the Superfund law, when a responsible party dies, and assuming the estate has assets, we would have the authority under the statue to pursue the estate for cost recovery," Sternberg said.

RESIDENTS’ RESPONSE to the discovery of another well with TCE contaminants was mixed. Denise Mazzan, who has been one of the most outspoken citizens about the contaminated wells, said she is glad that it appears the landfill will make the

Superfund list. "To be honest, there shouldn’t be a problem here. Had the Health Department kept a closer eye on what was being dumped in that landfill, with all the people complaining and seeing with their own eyes as to what was being dumped there, this wouldn’t have been a problem," she said. "They should have dug it out and found out what’s being dumped. … But they capped it instead."

Carl Mazzan had a similar response. "Why are they dealing with it now and not in the last 20 to 30 years?"

Carol Hafer said she was pleased that it appears the EPA will clean up the landfill, "I’m just happy everything is in the forefront. I’d hate to see it spread any further."

Kevin Fannon said he was not surprised to learn of the new contamination. "They need to test all of them to make sure no one is affected. As long as that happens everyone is safe if they install filtration systems," he said.

Fannon said the EPA must clean up the landfill. "Here is my point. We can’t leave this for our children to clean up. The state had the opportunity to stop this … years ago."

TRACY WENGER, a resident and real estate agent, said she objects to the EPA placing the landfill on the NPL. "The folks who have TCE in their wells, they have very elaborate filter systems. The problem has been solved for those who had TCE."

She said bringing in public water would be more cost effective than having the EPA handle the problem.

She dispelled community concerns that the TCE has gone into the Potomac River and caused serious ailments among some residents. She said she was worried that the information would become an urban legend. "We have to stay away from that and stick to the facts," she said.

Carl Mazzan also raised concerns, saying he objected to anyone connecting the carcinogen to major health concerns, such as cancer, birth defects and tumors.

Wenger said she recently sold a house that had a filtration system installed. "They [the buyers] saw it as an advantage."

She said the wells could adversely affect the property values if there is negative press about them. "If we are better educated and informed about the real risks, then I think we will be OK," she added.

Fannon said the TCE has not spoiled his feelings about Broad Run Farms. "I’m not moving."

Goodfriend said county officials hope the EPA puts the landfill on the Superfund NPL so it can do the testing needed to see if the situation is getting better or worse or if there are other contaminants we should be concerned about, he said. "A lot of homeowners on both sides of the landfill … are looking for an answer."