EPA asked to investigate contamination in Newark wells

Official: Water is treated, remains safe

-By Josh Shannon, originally posted on November 14, 2016


State and city officials are seeking help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine the cause of groundwater pollution in the southern part of the city.

Federal investigation could result in the offending property being designated for remedial action.

The issue involves the city’s South Well Field, located on a narrow property off South Chapel Street, between Brookside and Scottfield.

City officials first noticed volatile organic compounds (VOCs) seeping into the water and installed a treatment system in 2003. The chemicals are toxic but easily removed in treatment, according to Tom Coleman, director of public works and water resources for the city of Newark.

“It’s been in place since 2003, and we don’t have any problem treating it,” Coleman said. “It’s just an expense.”

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has been studying the cause of the the pollution but has been unable to pinpoint the source, said Tim Ratsep, administrator of DNREC’s Site Investigation and Restoration Section.

Specifically, an October 2015 report recommended further investigation along Blue Hen Drive and along Belleview Road. Both locations are in industrial parks, and officials believe the VOCs may have come from industrial chemicals used or spilled there.

Ratsep said getting the EPA involved will provide access to additional resources to continue to study the contamination.

“Due to limited resources, the state could not move forward with the investigation,” he said, adding that state funding for such studies has dropped 40 percent because it is tied to the price of gasoline.

The EPA will soon begin a process that could result in the property being listed on the National Priorities List – also known as the Superfund list – which would make it eligible for federal funding for further testing and remediation.

Work done by DNREC and the city over the last two decades has largely happened behind the scenes, but Coleman said listing a property on the National Priorities List requires notification of the public. In advance of that, city and state officials are holding a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Clayton Hall to explain the process.

Water from the South Well Field feeds the southern part of the city, roughly as far north as Kells Avenue. The northern part of the city gets its water from White Clay Creek and the Newark Reservoir.

Coleman emphasized that treatment eliminates the VOCs from the water.

“Our water is safe, has been safe and will continue to be safe,” he said.

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