Click here to go to the Home Page

October 21, 2003

Scope of Grand Island water contamination probed
by David Hendee, Omaha World-Herald

Grand Island will be poked and probed for several days as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeks to determine the size and shape of the plume of contaminated water under the city.

The tests under way this week will for the first time evaluate the extent and definition of the industrial contamination recently found in private water wells on the edge of Nebraska's fourth-largest city.

"At this point, all we have is a lot of questions," said Gary Mader, the city's utilities director. "This sampling will get us closer to answers."

Residents of at least 50 houses in southwest Grand Island have been advised not to use their tap water for drinking, dishwashing, showering or bathing because the water could give off toxic vapors.

The EPA work is one of three initiatives under way in the community to resolve the dilemma.

Others include extending city water lines to the neighborhood and installing whole-house filtration to houses with the highest concentrations of contamination.

The City Council tonight is scheduled to award a contract for extending water lines at no cost to 21 residents in the area near Mary Lane. The work is expected to be completed by late December, Mader said.

A similar project for the Kentish Hills neighborhood north of the Mary Lane area is expected to be ready to come before the City Council next week.

The new water mains and service lines will be paid for by Case New Holland, whose combine manufacturing plant is nearby. The company insists that it is not the source of the contamination.

Jeff Walsh, a company spokesman, said that although information indicates that another site is a more likely source of the contamination, the company supports the city government's rapid response to the public health issue.

Case New Holland has had a plant in Grand Island for 39 years.

Mayor Jay Vavricek said he appreciates Case New Holland's cooperation and assistance.

As an interim measure until the new water lines are installed, Case New Holland is providing whole-house filtration to residents whose wells tested above 17 parts per billion for tetrachloroethylene. The residences are on Mary Lane, Valley View Avenue and Cornhusker Highway.

"Our goal is to get water in homes for drinking and showering and other normal use as soon as possible," Mader said.

The EPA sampling is being conducted by Tetra Tech Inc., a Pasadena, Calif., company that handles environmental engineering and technical services for clients around the world.

The sampling includes probing the earth with equipment to detect gases in soil and contaminants in water.

"This is a work in progress," Mader said.

top | Home