EPA testing for contaminated water, air in Le Mars, IA - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

EPA testing for contaminated water, air in Le Mars, IA


You're doing it right now, breathing air. But, do you know if that air is contaminated?

The Environmental Protection Agency has found some buildings in downtown Le Mars, Iowa, contaminated with something called PCE. The chemical was found in groundwater.

"We were groundwater testing for the coal tar site, and during that sampling we discovered the PCE," Susan Fisher, EPA On-Scene Coordinator said.

PCE or tetrachloroethene. What is it?

"PCE is a chemical. It's a hazardous substance. It's typically found in solvents, dry cleaning fluids," Fisher said.

It was first found back in 2008, but now the EPA is in the middle of doing a full assessment of the downtown Le Mars area. On-Scene Coordinator Susan Fisher says they've discovered PCE contamination levels higher than they should be from Central Avenue and Plymouth Street toward 2nd Avenue Northwest.

EPA toxicologists say there is a long-term health risk to breathing in PCE-contaminated air that include damage to nerves, kidneys, the liver and cause reproductive effects if you've been breathing it long term, like 60 years. That's why they're taking samples.

"We're taking what you call sub-slab samples, where we drill a small hole in a slab of the basement and then we pull air out of that hole. And, we test it for PCE contamination," Fisher said.

They're also testing the air in the room.

"We set a canister down in the basement and it sucks air for 24 hours and then we analyze that for PCE," Fisher said.

Business owner Terry Claussen says the EPA has already tested the air in his shop.

"They found some levels that they needed to address and as of, in about another week, they're going to come in and put in some sort of a radon system to take care of it," Claussen said.

Claussen isn't too concerned about the issue because he knows it will be taken care of properly. The EPA will install vapor mitigation systems, if necessary.

"What our vapor mitigation system does is they clean the air, they remove the PCE contamination from the air," Fisher said.

Fisher says the project will be fully funded by the EPA. She expects it to cost about $180,000. As of now, Fisher has determined 10 sites in the downtown area that will need the systems installed.

The EPA says it hopes to get the first vapor mitigation systems installed within the next month or two.

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