Clean water is on the way for dozens of Wake Forest residents.
This comes after two dozen residents discovered in July 2012 that their private wells were polluted with a cancer-causing chemical, trichloroethylene or TCE.
Tuesday, the EPA and Aqua North Carolina installed lines along Powell and Purnell roads in Wake Forest. The combined efforts will connect more than 40 homes to a clean water pipeline.
About half of the residents being connected to the pipeline have TCE contamination, for the other half it is peace of mind, says Aqua North Carolina Area Manager Troy Rendell.
“They want the convenience of having safe water that is regulated by the state, and also it's the fear they have that one day their wells might get contaminated,” Rendell said.
Larry Kusan has those fears but is unable to connect to the pipeline because the water pipeline does not extend to his property. His well is not currently contaminated, but he fears it is only a matter of time because he lives down gradient from the plume.
“Visualize an out-of-control, runaway freight train with no engineer, coming down the tracks, and my family is stalled on the tracks and there is nothing I can do about it,” Kusan explained.
Kusan is an engineer and warned the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources about the spreading of TCE contamination years before it's magnitude was discovered in July.
He says as current wells in the area are connected to Aqua's pipeline, the removal of TCE from the ground will decrease. Residents with contamination have been using contaminated water from their wells, but EPA-funded filters remove the cancer-causing chemicals before it comes out their spigot.
“Now it won't be removed in their wells as they bathe and cook, and it will be coming at an accelerated rate. One engineer I contacted on groundwater indicated we had three years,” Kusan said. “We think we're just sitting ducks. We're sitting on the crossing waiting for the train to wreck. It's a terrible feeling to live that way. Try living that way for three years.”
WNCN took Kusan's concerns to EPA On-Scene Coordinator Ken Rhame. He pointed out that Kusan lived a half of a mile from the nearest contaminated well and “about one mile from the nearest source of contamination.”
“Right now there is a lot of unknowns about contaminated groundwater and which pathway it is going to take,” Rhame said.
Rhame has been working to get residents clean water since NCDENR first reported the problem to EPA last summer. He says so far EPA has spent approximately $1.5 million to get a permanent solution in Wake Forest.
“We have a budget and that is a good portion of the amount we have to spend on these situations across the entire region,” Rhame said.
The EPA estimates it could cost taxpayers an extra $1 million to extend a water line to Kusan's neighborhood.
If Kusan's well becomes contaminated, the EPA would consider a similar solution to the current one being provided; but Rhame says at this point, “we have no indication that will happen.”