By Richard S. Gubbe
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) said Monday, Oct. 31, that it has performed geoprobe tests in areas around the former Amerock plant on Rockford’s west side. Meanwhile, in a correlating matter, a state IEPA official said bottled water has been provided to five homes where contaminated well water was discovered.
The geoprobe was part of a two-pronged state investigation into pollution of local wells from underground gasoline storage tanks in a neighborhood north of Auburn Street, west of Amerock, on Alliance and Soper avenues, as well as allegations of toxic waste dumping by the Amerock Corp. around the plant during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
IEPA spokesperson Maggie Carson confirmed the geoprobe has taken place as planned by the IEPA, and she said the results will be provided within three weeks. The geoprobe is an analysis of heavy metals in the area around Kent Creek, which includes the Northwest Community Center and the land north of the creek. Carson also confirmed last week the IEPA and NWCC officials discussed access to the property for testing, which had not been given until recently.
Carson also said the “U.S. EPA is providing bottled water to those affected by contaminated wells.” She added, “This is a short-term solution while long-term solutions are being discussed.” She said recent agency meetings have been held by the IEPA investigative team and IEPA officials about the contaminated wells and allegations of toxic dumping in that area.
The investigation began when residents reported smelling odors resembling gasoline from their private wells last July and August, prompting The Rock River Times (TRRT) to investigate the matter. Wells in that area are dug 25 to 50 feet underground. Tests conducted by the Winnebago County Health Department and analyzed at IEPA labs showed a high concentration of volatile organic chemicals such as benzene in the water.
Further IEPA tests will determine if other heavy metals, such as those used in the hardware plating process at Amerock, are contained in the groundwater used by private wells to homes in the area west of Amerock.
The Illinois EPA said last week that it planned to follow through on its disclosure to TRRT that tests for heavy metals would be taken in the area after water tests were taken in wells in homes west of Amerock. The exact dates of tests were not provided. The IEPA said it tested 25 wells in the past few weeks, and five were found to have high concentrations of benzene, a common ingredient found in gasoline, Carson said.
The IEPA disclosed to TRRT in October that it planned to use a geoprobe, which is a type of drilling equipment mounted on a small truck, to find out more about the groundwater.
“The Agency will take water levels across several blocks to determine the flow direction of groundwater,” the IEPA detailed in a recent release. “In addition, water samples will be taken to analyze for the fuel-related contamination to further define the extent of contamination.”
The IEPA said it will issue an update as more information is obtained from the investigation. Carson said the first priority remains the residents who are living in homes with contaminated wells. She said the bottled water will provide relief “from ingestion of benzene” by the residents affected. Confidentiality laws prohibit the IEPA from releasing information about specific homes affected.
“We have people who have contaminated drinking wells, and our first priority is why and where it came from,” Carson said when she first disclosed the investigation to TRRT.
TRRT is seeking information about those residents who have their water tested and the results they were given. Those who had water tested can call TRRT at (815) 964-9767 or e-mail TRRT at email@example.com.
From the Nov. 2-8, 2011, issue