"I could smell the chlorine right when it came in," he said. "I'll get used to it if I have to ... if it's safe."

The EPA is contracting to install carbon filtration systems on about 25 wells, according to spokeswoman Bonnie Smith. Once the systems are installed, she said, "they'll have safe drinking water and also reduced vapor exposure to TCE during showering and bathing."

The costs of the tanks and the filters are being covered under the federal Superfund program, set up to get hazardous sites cleaned up by the government when responsible parties cannot be found.

Over the longer term, officials say, they plan to examine whether residents would be better served by drilling a deeper community well or by hooking up the affected neighborhoods to a municipal water system — Fruitland's is little more than a half-mile away.

Chris O'Barsky said his family is among those waiting to find out whether their well is contaminated, but they are taking precautions just in case.

"We're already kind of heavy bottled water drinkers anyway," said O'Barsky, 40, an assistant fire chief in Salisbury. He said he and his wife, Tara, a school vice principal, have begun buying gallon jugs of water instead of the small bottles they'd been getting for school lunches for their 8-year-old daughter and son, 13.

"We try as much as possible not to use the tap water," he said. "Showers, of course, are a different monster. We've cut our showers down." There's a bright side to that, O'Barsky noted: "It's sped my son's showers up."

Some residents, including O'Barsky, are not keen on the prospect of getting municipal water, noting that there's usually a fee for hookup plus monthly bills.

"That was the reason we wanted to live here, so we didn't have to pay for city water," he said.

For now, though, O'Barsky and others say they're pleased with the swift government response.

"All I care about is clean water right now," Bracken said. "Then we'll worry about who's paying for this and that."

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

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