The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started testing dozens of homes in the north Dayton suburb of Riverside for dangerous airborne pollution. Trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), are toxic industrial degreasers that were used with little regulation until the 1970s, when people began to suspect links to cancer.
The Ohio EPA first noticed TCE and PCE in groundwater wells at Mullins Rubber factory just off Valley Pike in 2010, but because the groundwater was not connected to a drinking water supply, the agency didn’t immediately initiate any action.
Now the agency believes the chemicals could be rising up into nearby homes in vapor form, and the federal EPA has taken over the investigation.
“There is a fix to this,” said Bill Flaute, the mayor of Riverside. “We have to have the EPA go into the folks’ houses in a very defined area, and do some sampling.”
The EPA says it will pay for mitigation systems in any home found to have a risky level of vapor intrusion, and the testing process is expected to take several months. But of about 130 houses in the potentially affected area, the agency has only gotten permission to enter and sample about 70. Steve Renninger, the site coordinator, is asking residents to contact him directly with questions.
Meanwhile, the search is on for the original source of the contamination. Owner Bill Mullins says Mullins Rubber uses TCE to clean parts, and then disposes of it carefully. He believes the pollution originated somewhere else and ended up in his site’s groundwater; the water that comes in and out of the factory is used as a coolant in a closed system.
According to EPA documents, in 2003 Mullins pleaded guilty for misreporting air pollution from TCE, paid a fine and did house arrest. Mullins says the event was a result of his misunderstanding the necessary paperwork under the Clean Air act.
Two other nearby companies, Paul’s Garage and YRC Freight, have told the EPA they don’t use either of the solvents in question.
Exposure to TCE has been linked to cancer, and to problems with the brain, liver, lungs and heart. At high levels of exposure either through water or air, both TCE and PCE can be deadly.