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DEP Well Capping Raises Questions for Horsham Residents

The Department of Environmental Protection has ordered that Horsham residents with contaminated wells permanently close them and move to public water use.

By year's end, 40 Horsham Township homeowners whose wells have tested positive for contaminants that taint drinking water will be hooked to public water, officials said.

The Horsham Township Council on Wednesday put forth several actions that would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to foot the bill for the $850,000 water line installation and the "mandatory hookup" of residents in the area of Limekiln Pike and Grindleton Lane and Davis Grove Road near Park Road.

Testing of wells in this section of Horsham Township began in June 2011. Since then, DEP officials have said levels of perchloroethylene or PCE were detected that are “above safe drinking water standards.”

The odorless and colorless chemical is a widely-used solvent commonly used in dry cleaning, or as a degreaser. According to Environmental Pollution Centers, “PCE is toxic to humans at very low concentrations.”

Horsham Township Manager Bill Walker said DEP has been supplying impacted homeowners with bottled water. The water line installation and subsequent connection to public water would be done sometime between summer and December, he said. 

As part of an agreement that the Horsham Township Council approved Wednesday, the DEP requires that contaminated wells be "abandoned and closed" at DEP's cost, Walker said. 

Wells in the affected area that have not yet shown signs of contamination would still be hooked to public water, Walker said. The homeowner could opt to keep the well open, but would need to enter into an agreement with the township to test the well every two years and provide documentation to Horsham, the Horsham Township Water and Sewer Authority and the DEP, Walker said. If the well water, at a later date, goes above higher-than-permitted PCE levels, Walker said the resident would need to close it at their cost. 

"(DEP) is paying now," Walker said. "They will not pay in the future."

While public water may seem like good news, James Kephart Jr., one of the affected homeowners, balked at the requirement to close and permanently cap his well. 

"It’s almost like they’re holding you guys hostage," Kephart said to the governing body. "They’ll give you the money if you force us to cap our wells."

An engineer, Kephart said a filtration system could handle the contamination without the need to cap it. But, Kephart, who bought his Limekiln Pike house last year, said his main concern is the long-term impacts closing his well will have on his property.

"I don't like people telling me what to do," Kephart told Patch, adding that a capped well would mean DEP would "mark my deed on my house" as contaminated. "This contamination came quickly, it could go just as quickly."

Horsham resident Andy Starr echoed Kephart's sentiments. 

"Why is DEP so bent on having private homeowners close their wells?" Starr asked. "We have technology today to fix that."

The township's attorney, Mary Eberle, argued that filtration devices have been used to try to fix contamination and "it hasn't been that terribly effective."

"I still think containing the plume is the first course of defense," Eberle said.

On Wednesday night, the Horsham Township Council approved an agreement with the DEP regarding water line installation and introduced an ordinance regarding the proposed water lines. A public hearing and final ordinance consideration has been set for March 13 at 7:45 p.m. 

Kloushu February 14, 2013 at 08:33 PM
What a shame. Please tell me that there is an investigation being performed to determine the source of the contaminant. People need to be held accountable for the damage they are causing to the environment.
Theresa Katalinas February 14, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Yes, DEP is trying to determine the cause of the contamination: http://horsham.patch.com/articles/dep-eager-to-test-horsham-wells-for-contamination

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