Indiana Daily Student

High levels of PCB discovered at site in Bloomington

A site contaminated with toxin has been located in the back yard of an abandoned home near Clear Creek in Bloomington.\nThe site, located on Fluck Mill Road, about 10 miles southwest of IU, is much smaller than the infamous sites in Bloomington. \nWestinghouse Electric Company, who formerly manufactured electrical capacitors containing PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, in Bloomington from the late 1950s through the 1970s, is now a part of Viacom. Viacom is responsible for cleaning up PCBs in Bloomington. \nDottie Alke, Viacom's vice president of environmental projects, said workers found the site while testing the Clear Creek flood plain for PCBs. \nAlke said the site is not consistent with other test samples taken from Clear Creek, and the incident seems to be isolated. In the past, there have been other small-scale incidents like this one that Viacom has taken care of on an informal basis.\n"We don't now how the material got there," Alke said. "It may have been a former garden area."\nMore tests are needed to determine the extent of the contamination, and Alke is not sure when the site will be cleaned.\nAccording to information on the Coalition Opposed to PCB Ash in Monroe County Web site, Westinghouse Electric hauled off faulty capacitors to local area landfills and farms. When these capacitors were spilled during manufacturing, the material was flushed down the sewer system. Some of the PCB waste ended up as sewer sludge that people used as fertilizers for their gardens. \nDennis Williamson has been working on PCB cleanup projects for the Monroe County Health Department for 25 years. He said the new site is not actually new.\nWilliamson said officials have known about the possibility of sludge in residents' yards since 1975. \nHe said the site was tested in 1975 and was shown to have levels of 40 PCB parts per million. The maximum acceptable parts per million at the time was 50 parts per million. Now the site, which has recently been tested for the first time since 1975, has a level of 180 parts per million. The level now considered safe for a residence is 10 parts per million.\n"The last time it was tested it was considered acceptable," Williamson said. "We would ideally like to have no contamination."\nWilliamson said the site seems to be running off into Clear Creek and that workers aim to clean up the creek. While testing various flood plain areas for the creek, they came across the site. \n"This was the hottest spot we found," Williamson said.\nHe said people should be aware of the danger of eating fish that come out of Clear Creek. Besides that, as long as someone does not dig into contaminated soil, they should be safe.\nAccording to studies by the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause negative health effects and cause cancer in animals. The agency then concluded PCBs probably cause cancer among humans.\nWilliamson said the site will probably be cleaned up by hauling the contaminated soil to another site. This site is minimal compared to the larger sites that are being cleaned up around Bloomington: Neal's Landfill, Bennett's Dump and Lemon Lane Landfill. All of these sites, which were dump sites for PCBs, have contaminated ground water.\nSophia Travis, a Monroe County Council and plan commission member, lives with her husband on the historic Ketcham estate. Before they owned the property, it was part of the contaminated site. \n"It's an issue on one level I've always been aware of," Travis said. "Clear Creek has always been a polluted creek."\nWestinghouse Electric Company drained polluted material into Clear Creek. The creek has advisory signs posted on its banks warning people to not eat fish from the creek because of contamination.\nWhile Clear Creek's signs warn people of the contamination, the warnings are of little consolation to the Travises. Their home is located uphill from the hot spot, and the sludge site is very specific and concentrated. \n"It's not worked into the ground. It seems like it was just dumped there," Travis said. "It wasn't worked into the soil."\nTravis said the material has probably been there since the 1970s. She said many people used to think sludge material wouldn't hurt anyone if it was dumped at their homes.\n"The courteous thing for Viacom to do would be to alert the residents about this site," Travis said. "We've never been contacted."\nTravis said this incident makes her wonder how many hot spots there are around the area. She said people should be aware it could happen to them as well.\n"It's not as unusual as one would think," Travis said. "It's still an alive and current issue"

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