KOKOMO, IN (June 22, 2015) - The Environmental Protection Agency is working to identify the source of a dangerous pollutant in an underground plume that provides drinking water to 55,000 residents in Kokomo.
The nearly 300-acre underground water source contains a manufactured chemical called vinyl chloride, according to testing performed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
“These are chronic contaminants that over a long period of time, if you consume them, they could cause cancer and affect the liver,” said Kirk Kuroiwa, Water Quality Supervisor at Kokomo’s Indiana American Water treatment plant.
The EPA is working with a report from IDEM to zero in on the source of the contamination. In 2011, IDEM tested several municipal wells around Kokomo and found concentrations of the chemical that were 2,500 times the amount allowed for drinking water. Since then, the EPA has put Kokomo on its “Super Fund” list of the most dangerous areas that need to be cleaned up.
But finding the source of the contamination must happen before it can be stopped.
The EPA has now identified 15 sites around Kokomo that could be the cause. They are businesses that either currently or formerly worked with vinyl chloride in the process of producing plastics and packaging materials.
Businesses or locations listed as possible sources in the EPA report include:
RACER/Motors Liquidation Co (former GM Delco Plant 5), Millbank Manufacturing, Coan Engineering Transmission, Padfields Auto Body, Stite Cleaners, Omnisource, PPG, Hunt's Salvage & Coal Yards, Delphi Plant 1, Wiese Collision Repair, Wiese Oldsmobile GMC Inc, Chrysler, GMCH-Kokomo, ASF Partnership, and an “Empty Industrial Building” north of the water treatment plant.
It could take several more years for the EPA to work with the businesses to identify the source and stop it from polluting the water.
In the meantime, utility officials say Kokomo residents who drink city water have nothing to worry about. The treatment process at the Indiana American Water plant renders the water safe to drink.
But there is concern for Kokomo residents who rely on residential wells for their water.
“There are pockets within the city where people might be using a residential well for their water,” Kuroiwa said. “That would be a bigger concern because that water would not be tested and they wouldn’t have the technology to remove the contaminants.”
Kuroiwa recommends Kokomo residents who rely on residential wells contact the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to have their water tested.