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October 8, 2003

Water wells contaminated in Nebraska town
by Associated Press, Omaha World-Herald

Residents of a rural neighborhood have been showering in churches and drinking bottled water after tests showed their wells were contaminated with industrial solvents known to cause cancer, liver and kidney damage.

The contamination is so severe that health officials have advised residents in the 24 affected homes against coming into any contact with the water, and are considering applying for federal Superfund designation.

''We may just be scratching the edge or this may be the worst area. We don't know,'' said city Utilities Director Gary Mader.

The contamination has been found in the private water wells in a rural area southwest of the city, which has a population of about 44,000. The wells were tested after high levels of an industrial solvent were found last year in a nearby city well that was later shut down.

The wells showed dangerously high levels of two industrial solvents: dichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene. Both agents have been found to cause liver and kidney damage and cancer.

Tetrachloroethylene is commonly used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing. Dicholoroethylene is used for waxes and resins.

City and county officials aren't speculating on the source of contamination until research has been completed.

The contaminated wells are about a half mile from a Case New Holland combine manufacturing plant, but spokesman Jeff Walsh said it's impossible that the plant is source of the contamination because groundwater does not flow in the direction of the polluted wells. The company filed a voluntary cleanup plan with the state in 2000 and cleanup began October1.

The city is still waiting for the results of water samples taken last week from other wells near the contaminated area, and Mader said it may take months or years to identify the extent of the contamination.

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