York County, DHEC want well testing, offer water after landfill leak

Eric Rekitt, York County’s public works director, speaks to residents of Travis Acres at a public meeting on contaminated well water in the York neighborhood Wednesday.
Eric Rekitt, York County’s public works director, speaks to residents of Travis Acres at a public meeting on contaminated well water in the York neighborhood Wednesday. bmarchant@heraldonline.com

York County could provide up to 41 homes with bottled water, depending on whether residents have been exposed to a landfill contaminant.

That was the solution offered to residents of Travis Acres off McFarland Road worried about a leak coming out of a long-closed county landfill.

One of three recently installed monitoring wells in the York subdivision detected pollutants, leading the county to hold a community meeting Wednesday at the county fire training center.

The landfill has had long-term groundwater monitoring since it stopped accepting waste in 1998. That monitoring detected what a spokesman with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control labeled “volatile organic compounds,” which includes items such as degreasers, lubricants and brake fluid.

In response, York County installed additional monitoring wells in June in the area between the landfill and the Travis Acres community, residents heard from Jenny Johnson with Joyce Engineering, the firm performing the testing. Of 46 compounds tested, one was detected in one of the three new wells in December.

Follow-up testing in February confirmed a reduced presence of the contaminant, 1,1-Dichloroethane, a solvent once used in a variety of products.

“No federal drinking water standards have been breached,” Johnson said, but monitors were concerned enough to seek permission to test every home well in the neighborhood.

Preliminary results found contamination from the closed York County landfill between S.C. 5 and McFarland Road and the ground wells in the Travis Acres neighborhood off McFarland Road. The 41 homes that will be tested are across the street from the backside of the county-owned property.

About 50 wells routinely monitor the landfill itself, said Assistant Public Works Director Ryan Blancke, but within the last six months DHEC requested the county install three new monitoring wells.

Laboratory data from one of the new wells “suggests that groundwater containing solid waste constituents may have migrated beyond the county’s property,” officials said in a letter that has been mailed to neighborhood residents. The Herald obtained a copy of the letter Wednesday.

Susan Evans, who lives on Rock Castle Drive in the affected area, said she was concerned after receiving the letter.

“I want to know how long it’s been like this, and what they plan to do to fix it, other than put us on city water,” which Evans said would be too expensive for her household and other residents on the street.

City water was one solution offered to residents Wednesday. But first, county officials will make bottled water available to any home whose well comes back contaminated and place a new filter system on the home.

What kind of health effects could result was the main concern residents expressed Wednesday, although officials said there hasn’t been much study of the effects of this particular chemical – even as they expressed confidence the numbers already tested are well below any danger level, and one of 11 homes already tested has since come back clean.

Evans can see several well pumps from her house and regularly sees workers checking them – her dogs bark every time one of them goes behind her house. She said the last time she noticed anyone in the area monitoring the wells was several weeks before her household received the letter.

“I made sure our filter pump and the filter on the refrigerator were brand new,” she said.

Resident Kate Clinton was worried about whether her family should shower or clean clothes with the water at her home now.

“I have two little babies at home,” Clinton said.

Even though it could take up to 10 days after testing for results to come back, County Manager Bill Shanahan said residents worried about their water could begin receiving bottled water immediately.

Blancke stressed that there is no possibility of sewage from the landfill and that no actual solid material has been detected. Any contaminants would be the result of chemical breakdown of landfill materials.

Before the end of Wednesday’s meeting, residents were asked several times to sign consent forms for engineers to access their wells. Results of the testing will be sent to residents once the full extent of the contamination is known. That analysis generally takes about 10-14 days following sample collection, officials told residents.

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome