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DEP Eager to Test Horsham Wells for Contamination

Five homes have tested positive for high levels of PCE, making drinking water unsafe.

Approximately one-quarter of Horsham residences with well water – which could be unsafe to drink - have reportedly been unresponsive to requests from the state Department of Environmental Protection to test wells free of charge.

In all, an estimated two dozen properties in the area of Limekiln Pike and Grindleton Lane use well water, according to DEP Environmental Trainee Carly Nagle. Of those, 15 of the properties have had their wells tested; and at least six of the property owners have not responded to Nagle’s well survey questionnaire, or her requests to conduct testing.

Testing began in June as part of DEP’s regular monitoring following a previous contamination stemming from nearby Glemser Brothers, which had at one time operated a gas station, Township Manager Bill Walker said.

Five of the wells tested since June were found to have PCE contamination. The levels – more than five parts per billion - make the water unsafe for drinking or cooking, DEP officials said during Monday night’s Horsham Township Council meeting.

“Immediately when it was found we delivered bottled water,” Nagle said. “There’s going to be more investigation going on.” 

Testing will continue quarterly; monitoring wells will be installed to help determine the direction of groundwater flow and, eventually, to identify a responsible party for the spill of what DEP HSCA Supervisor Timothy Cherry described as an industrial solvent containing chlorine molecules, commonly used as a metal degreaser or carpet cleaner.

Officials said the hope is for the remaining homeowners with wells to allow DEP to conduct free well testing, which, DEP Community Relations Coordinator Lynda Rebarchak said typically costs $250.

“We normally don’t have people not responding,” she said.

Resident Rich Kirkman, one of the five whose well tested positive for contamination, said he’s tried unsuccessfully to convince his neighbors to have the testing done. And, after being tested in June and later in August, the latter showing a 20 percent increase in contamination, Kirkman told the council, “this problem’s not going to go away.”

“I don’t want to see this happen, it be studied to death or it become a vote about what’s more popular,” Kirkman said. “It’s a matter of health … Even the cats are drinking bottled water.”

Councilman Gregory Nesbitt directed Walker to draft a letter to unresponsive residents requesting that they agree to have their wells tested.

"I would encourage every resident to participate," Nesbitt said. 

Fran Worthington, whose well tested positive for high levels of PCE two weeks ago, said it’s the first time in the 59 years her husband has lived at the house that there’s ever been a problem with the safety of well drinking water. Even with contaminated water, switching to public water is not in the immediate plan.

“I love my well water,” Worthington said. 

For residents living in the circle of Limekiln Pike and Grindleton Land who would like to have their wells tested, free of charge, call Carly Nagle at 484-250-5730, or e-mail her at carnagle@state.pa.us

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