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EPA to study water contamination in Silver Run Agency invites homeowners to discuss their concerns


Homes in Silver Run will be included in next year's round of more extensive testing of residential wells and ground water surrounding Keystone Landfill.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is willing to interview area residents about their concerns, as part of updating its community relations plan, said a spokeswoman for the agency.

If the water testing shows contamination from the landfill, the EPA could start supplying filters and bottled water to those affected, said Amy Barnett, of the agency's regional headquarters in Philadelphia.

But residents such as Jean Bechtel of Humbert Schoolhouse Road aren't waiting for the EPA to act. Ms. Bechtel has been buying bottled water for cooking and drinking for the past seven years, ever since county and state agencies found that her water was contaminated.

Pennsylvania environmental agents first found contamination of ground water during routine testing in 1982. Some contamination was found the next year in Silver Run, the Carroll County community just across the state line from the landfill, which is in Union Township, Pa. The landfill has since been placed on the EPA's Superfund cleanup list.

The EPA tested several wells in May 1991 and found volatile organic compounds and other chemicals that could be traced to the landfill. But Ms. Barnett said the amounts found in wells were all within ranges considered acceptable by the EPA.

The EPA has succeeded in persuading all but one of the 22 parties it has named responsible for the contamination to hire a contractor to alleviate the problem. The parties include the landfill's owners and several customers who dumped garbage.

One year ago, the EPA ordered 12 of the polluters to come up with a plan to clean the ground water and cap the landfill. Capping would prevent further contamination by keeping rain from seeping into the garbage and carrying chemicals into the water.

Of those 12, 11 have agreed and hired a contractor, E. A. Engineering, Science and Technology Inc., which has been approved by the EPA. The federal agency will monitor the work, which could begin within the year, Ms. Barnett said.

One company, Emeco of Long Beach, Calif., has not agreed to cooperate, Ms. Barnett said. Either the EPA or the 11 companies paying could decide to sue Emeco later, she said.

For just over a year, the EPA has also been negotiating with 10 other companies, including several small, southern Pennsylvania industries and municipalities, thought to have had minimal effect on the contamination. The agency is trying to get those companies to agree to cash settlements that would go toward the project.

But the major portion of the estimated $11 million project would be paid by 11 companies, including the landfill owners, Kenneth and Anna Noel of Keystone Sanitation Inc.

"It seems like it's slow, but I think anything that involves government always goes slower than the normal citizens like to see it go," said Rebecca Dutterer of Littlestown Pike in Silver Run.

Although the landfill is in Pennsylvania, it is only about a quarter-mile from Carroll County and several homes in Silver Run.

Mrs. Dutterer was among 20 residents of Maryland and Pennsylvania interviewed by the EPA in March. She said her well is not contaminated, but she lives on the southern end of Silver Run, farther from the landfill than most of the community.

The interviews are to update the agency on community concerns, Ms. Barnett said.

She said she is willing to undertake more interviews of people who live near the landfill if they contact her at (215) 597-6915.

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