ANDERSON – The city’s Wheeler well field along Broadway is being added to the national Superfund list, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced.
The city of Anderson and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management announced Tuesday that continued testing confirms the drinking water provided to city residents and businesses is safe and in compliance with the standards of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
IDEM and the Anderson Water Department made the joint announcement after U.S. EPA announced its intention to add an area identified along the Broadway corridor north of downtown Anderson to the National Priority List program.
The Wheeler well field near Broadway and Grand Avenue can be eligible for federal funding as a potential Superfund cleanup list.
IDEM submitted a request to add the area to the list in August 2017, after years of monitoring and investigation.
“The city has been aware of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the raw water since the late 1980s and identified them in a 1992 vulnerability assessment of the water utility that was submitted to IDEM,” Neal McKee, superintendent of the Water Department, said in January. “Air stripper technology was installed at the Wheeler Water Treatment Plant in 2000 to remove VOCs from the raw water.
“The city tests the drinking water for VOCs on a quarterly basis. Laboratory analysis can detect contaminants at very low levels,” he said. “There have been no violations of VOCs in finished drinking water in Anderson. The air strippers have been effectively removing VOCs from the raw water for 17 years.”
McKee said additional testing in February showed that the level of the contaminants has been declining since 2014.
Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. said Tuesday his administration has been proactive in addressing an issue that has been known in Anderson since the late 1980s and early '90s.
“This was identified over 25 years ago,” Broderick said. “The city started taking steps to make sure the drinking water is safe.”
Traces were detected in the water coming from the wells in 2013 and IDEM requested it be placed on the national list to obtain additional funding.
“Our concern is that people will overreact,” Broderick said. “We have addressed it.”
IDEM is seeking additional funding for continued testing and EPA will determine where the Wheeler well field will be placed on the national priority list, he said.
“Despite 25 years of research, IDEM has not been able to determine the source,” Broderick said. “Part of what they want to do is determine the source and go back and try to get funding from the company involved.”
Broderick said the city intends to remove the wells as a source of city water and is researching possible well sites in the southwest area of the community.
“It probably could result in the construction of a new water plant,” he said.
The listing of the Broadway corridor on the national list the will allow access to federal funds to determine the origin of the volatile organic compounds, to assist in any needed remediation, and to seek funding from any entities that may have been the cause of the contamination while also looking for possible funding for potential remediation.
IDEM Commissioner Bruno Pigott said earlier this year that residents can be confident the city’s water meets all state and federal standards.
“While Anderson, like many cities in the Midwest, has had VOC detects in raw water, this is not uncommon due to years of heavy industrial activity. It is nonetheless important that we continually take steps to ensure the continuation of keeping our drinking water safe and clean,” Pigott said.
In November 2017, the city began construction of a 10-million-gallon per day (MGD) water treatment facility to replace the aging Lafayette treatment plant. The construction process is underway and is expected to be completed in early 2019.
As part of this project, Anderson will upgrade the Wheeler Avenue plant to allow for 2.5 MGD of the new plant to run through the Wheeler plant. This will allow the city to begin the process of shutting down and abandoning the wells that had the VOC detections, according to city officials.
The city has eight ground water production wells in the Wheeler well field that supply the Wheeler Avenue treatment plant. Nine ground water wells in Lafayette Township supply the Lafayette water treatment plant.