SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — State Department of Environmental Protection officials provided a history of water contamination in the Hooper Sands Road area at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
DEP staffers attended at the request of councilors following recent discoveries of dangerous levels of tetracholorethylene in well water around Hooper Sands Road. The source of the TCE and other chemicals was traced to a former business that specialized in reclaiming waste oil for use in road construction in the 1960s and 70s.
Acting on a resident’s complaint of gasoline odors in groundwater, DEP testing in 1989 discovered caustic chemicals leaching into the nearby Great Works River and surrounding waterways. Remediation included removing 3,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and waste oil storage drums in the early 1990s and the state worked with the South Berwick Water District to connect local homeowners to its water supply.
“The decision was made to extend the water line because it would be very expensive to remediate the contaminants,” said Brian Beneski, DEP’s Bureau of Remediation program manager.
“Even removing 99 percent of the contaminants would not have gotten us to safe drinking water criteria,” added DEP hydrogeologist Troy Smith.
As to the recent chemical discoveries, DEP project manager Danielle Obery said: “We will send letters to homeowners asking if we can sample their well water and, if it is unsafe, encourage them to use town water, instead.” No homeowners will be charged for the water testing, she said, adding DEP would work with town officials to alert those seeking to build homes in Hooper Sands area about the contamination.