Officials say tainted Kokomo groundwater remains safe for residents

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KOKOMO, Ind. (Mar. 26, 2015) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has fast-tracked the city of Kokomo onto a list of the most dangerous contaminated sites, but water company officials say the water remains safe.

The EPA added a nearly 300-acre plume underneath the city of Kokomo onto its Superfund list of priority sites. The designation means more money to investigate the area, which contains groundwater contaminated by the chemical vinyl chloride.

"It's a product that's used to make plastic and they do say it's a carcinogen," Mike Ward with Indiana American Water said.

Ward, though, whose company provides all of the water to Kokomo's 55,000 residents, said the filtration at the water treatment plant is working to eliminate the chemical.

"It's perfectly safe to drink. That's what we're here for," Ward said.

Still, environmental advocates said Kokomo residents should be paying close attention.

"It is of great concern," said Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

Kharbanda pointed out that the EPA still doesn't know the source of the chemical, meaning there's no one on the hook to help pay to fix it. That could present problems for a cash-strapped federal agency with almost 65 Superfund sites already across Indiana.

"There is less money and yet there (are) potentially more sites," Kharbanda said.

So, his message is to get involved.

"Be engaged. I think that’s the most important message to the community," Kharbanda said.

Meanwhile, Ward's message stuck firm to residents that the water flowing into their homes is fine.

"I’ve been a resident of Kokomo ... my entire life. I drink the water. I’m not afraid of the water," Ward said.

For more information on the Kokomo groundwater issue, go to the EPA site here. You can also find more information through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management here.

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