Downers Grove Groundwater Investigation

Fact Sheet #2
October 2001

Downers Grove, Illinois

Background

Illinois EPA continues to investigate groundwater contamination in the areas of unincorporated Downers Grove. During the week of September 10-13, Illinois EPA sample teams took 169 more private well samples. The samples were taken primarily in an area south of Maple Street and east of Belmont with a few samples north of Maple and some west of Belmont. See Area 4 (the new sampling area) and Area 1 on the site map.

During the spring of 2001, the Illinois EPA began a groundwater investigation just east of I-355 near Downers Grove. This investigation is in response to citizen concerns related to recent private well sampling in neighboring Lisle. Results of a few samples in Downers Grove in May showed some solvent contamination in scattered wells. Consequently, Illinois EPA decided to initiate a separate investigation in Downers Grove to identify contaminated wells and potential sources.

The Illinois EPA collected samples from private water wells in unincorporated Downers Grove during the week of July 16, 2001. The results from theses samples constituted the first phase of the Downers Grove Groundwater Investigation. In this first round of sampling, approximately 160 wells, in three areas, were analyzed for levels of solvent-type chemicals, known as volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).

What areas of unincorporated Downers Grove did Illinois EPA sample in September (Round 2)?

During the week of September 10-13, 169 well samples were taken, primarily in the new Area 4 on the attached map (south of Maple and east of Belmont). Some samples were taken north of Maple and some in Area 1 west of Belmont.

What areas were sampled in July (Round 1) of the Downers Grove Groundwater Investigation?

Area 1) Elmore and Inverness generally bound this study area on the north, Belmont on the east, 59th Street on the south and Walnut on the west.

Area 2) A second area is north of Burlington between Granville and Edwards, and generally extends about one block north and south.

Area 3) The third area tested is bounded by 63rd on the north, Main on the east, 67th on the south and Saratoga on the west.

What did the test results for the most recent sampling show?

The larger area, Area (#4), shows that many wells contain tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) and other related VOCs. Sixty percent of the wells in this area show PCE or TCE contamination above the federal drinking water standards.

Is the investigation in Downers Grove related to the ongoing investigation in Lisle?

The Illinois EPA is approaching the groundwater investigation in Downers Grove as a separate investigation. We have no information so far to connect it to groundwater contamination in Lisle. The results of two rounds of sampling in Downers Grove (July and Sept. 2001) show the presence of up to five chemicals, rather than primarily one chemical, trichloroethylene (TCE), found in the Lisle study.

Do you know the source of the contamination?

No, we do not have enough information yet to identify the source(s) of contamination. We are conducting an area-wide investigation to determine the nature and extent of contamination and possible source(s) of contamination. Illinois EPA is investigating possible sources of contamination both by physically sampling the groundwater and by performing records searches and interviews with local businesses. We have sent information request letters to many local businesses.

What are the levels of VOCs in the main study area?

Of the approximately 270 samples in the main study areas (Areas #1 and #4) 140 results were greater than the federal drinking water standards for public water supplies - five parts per billion for both PCE and TCE. Other VOCs were detected at lower levels. (Although these standards are not enforceable for private wells, Illinois EPA and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) use them as a comparison level regarding the safety of private water wells).

Should well owners drink the water?

The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends that owners of wells containing TCE and PCE at or greater than the standards find an alternative source of drinking water.

If contamination is found in my well, will the state force me to change over to a public water supply?

Neither Illinois EPA nor Illinois Department of Public Health would "force" a citizen to abandon a private well. IDPH will advise residents of any well contamination and make recommendations about changes in water use. Private wells are the domain of the well owner.

What adverse health effects are related to exposure to TCE or PCE?

Exposure to levels of TCE and PCE much greater than those levels found in Downers Grove area wells can cause nausea, dizziness or headaches. Exposure to low levels over long periods may lead to impaired immune system function and may increase the risk of kidney or liver cancer or other damage.

There is an updated "Trichloroethylene Health Risk Assessment" by U.S. EPA that is now out for public comment. This draft assessment is available on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/ncea. You may also phone the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA's) Technical Information Staff at 202-564-3261 or fax a request for the assessment to 202-565-0050

How can I reduce my exposure to TCE or PCE?

If your water contains TCE or PCE, you can greatly reduce your exposure by using another source of drinking water or by using water filtration equipment designed to remove VOCs. Since VOCs evaporate into the air, you can reduce your inhalation exposure by running the bathroom exhaust fan during baths and showers. Exposure to TCE or PCE from other water uses should be very small.

Should I install a filter system to remove this type of contamination?

Activated carbon or activated charcoal treatment units (whole-house) effectively remove volatile organic chemicals such as PCE and TCE. A homeowner should look for systems that are ANSI-approved or NSF (National Sanitation Foundation)-approved. A source of information about water filtration systems is Water Quality Association of Lisle, 630-/505-0160 at http://www.wqa.org

Where can I obtain information about connecting to the Downers Grove water supply?

Residents can obtain packets of information containing a pre-annexation agreement and distribution specifications from the Village of Downers Grove. Please call Dave Conley at 630-434-5462 or pick up the information at the Public Works Facility at 5101 Walnut.

What is the next step of the investigation?

The Illinois EPA is scheduling another round of testing of additional wells in the Downers Grove area in mid-October. Teams will be taking samples during the dates of 10/16-18 and 10/23-25. In addition, an investigation is ongoing to try to determine the source or sources of the contaminants in these wells.

Where can I get more information on TCE and PCE?

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry (ATSDR) has an excellent series of fact sheets on a wide range of chemicals available via their website on the Internet. There is also a TCE National Exposure Registry under the "Measuring Health Effects" section. TCE and PCE fact sheets are available at http://atsdr1.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaq.html. Those without ready access to the Internet may request copies from the DuPage County Health Department or Illinois EPA. In addition, the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health, is a good source of information about potential health effects from exposures to TCE and PCE. Their phone number is 217-782-5830.

For more information, you may contact:

Carol L. Fuller
Community Relations Coord.
Illinois EPA
217-524-8807
Maggie Carson
Public Information Officer
Illinois EPA
217-557-8138
Joe Dombrowski
Remedial Project Mgr.
Illinois EPA, State Sites Unit
217-558-2564