Mar 26, 2002

TCE/PCE Contamination Hits Home


In February, several Illinois towns including Lisle/Woodridge, Naperville and Downers Grove, faced the reality of well contamination from trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), industrial solvents and possible carcinogens used to remove grease from fabricated metal parts. With a quote of up to six months needed for a geology study to find the sources, these towns faced long-lasting decisions.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists the TCE limit
at 5 parts per billion (ppb). Nine wells in the Naperville area reportedly were
contaminated with six of them showing levels of more than 100 ppb. Almost half
of the wells tested in the Downers Grove area also showed levels of
contamination above the standard.


It was suggested that the plumes in the various locations
have different sources. “That is based on the presence of other
contaminants or perhaps the presence/absence of decay products in one plume vs.
the other,” said Mark Rowzee, education director for the Water Quality
Association (WQA). Test results indicated that a former missile site and an
industrial park could be two of the sources. While waiting to discover the
results for cleanup, residents will need temporary or permanent fixes.


Residents on private wells will be given the options of
bottled water, POE filtration or city hook up (not available in some areas).
“Removal of TCE can be accomplished by air stripping or activated carbon
units,” said Tom Palkon, laboratory director at the WQA. “It is
important to understand that different levels of TCE require different
treatment techniques. The levels I have seen in Naperville and Downers Grove
are fairly low. These levels easily can be reduced below EPA requirements with
the use of activated carbon.” Rowzee added that some of the wells may be
treated with carbon filtration systems.


Chloroform testings also have been done, Palkon explained.
“It is done because it can be used as a surrogate for many organics. TCE
is one of the organics that will be removed from water if the filter
demonstrates removal capabilities of chloroform.” A list of POE units
that have been tested for chloroform reduction may be found at or


Some residents will have the opportunity to pay to have a
hook up to city water—an expense that many residents want to avoid.
Rowzee concluded that in some areas, once a city hook up is initiated,
residents will be required to seal off their wells.


This was one example of a news story where your expertise in
water treatment will prove as a valuable resource to reporters. Read
“Community Awareness” on page 28 for more ideas on how to promote
your company on a local level.

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