Federal and state agencies to partner in ongoing cleanup efforts

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency added Hockessin to its National Priorities List (NPL) – one of six other national sites to join the “Superfund” list in 2018.

EPA originally proposed the roughly 32-acre Hockessin site to the NPL on Jan. 18, with the designation in place following a 60-day public comment period.

The designation addresses the contamination of Perchloroethylene (PERC) that has reached the Cockneysville Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to the region.

PERC is a known carcinogen that is still in use as a dry cleaning solvent, although bans have been suggested or are in the works in individual states.

The contamination is believed to date back several decades, involving a number of potential sources, including two dry cleaners and several former gas stations.

Area water supplier Artesian first identified the chemical during routine testing in 2001, according to the EPA.

Artesian treats the contaminated groundwater, and the final processed drinking water meets all regulatory standards for its customers, according to the EPA.

Residents with private wells are responsible for installing and maintaining an on-site filtration system.

According to a press release, EPA’s next step will be to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study to determine the extent of contamination and “assess potential threats to human health and the environment.”

This also includes evaluation of various cleanup options, the release states.

Greater Hockessin Area Development Association President Mark Blake said the organization and the entire community are pleased to have the Hockessin groundwater site considered for inclusion on the NPL for remediation and environmental recovery efforts.

“Having the expertise and resources that the Environmental Protection Agency can bring to bear on this critical issue, is the best possible outcome for everyone involved,” Blake said.

New Castle County Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick, District 3, said she is happy to see state and federal agencies working in a coordinated effort to secure continued funding to clean any and all contamination in the affected soils.

“This effort goes a long way in securing clean drinking water for the area residents, especially for those who rely on wells as their main source of water,” Kilpatrick said.

EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio said that Superfund cleanup continues to be a priority for the agency.

“Today’s action ensures that resources are available to take the necessary cleanup actions to address the contamination and any potential impacts on the Hockessin community,” Servidio said in a statement.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn M. Garvin added that the agency is also pleased that EPA has placed the Hockessin Groundwater Site on the National Priorities List.

“Through our federal partnership with the EPA, and also by working with the Division of Public Health’s Office of Drinking Water and the Artesian Water Company, we are now better enabled to comprehensively investigate and clean up this contaminated groundwater site,” Garvin said. “Given the resources that the Hockessin groundwater site’s NPL listing guarantees, we can also ensure that drinking water in the area continues to meet all state and federal standards, and that our precious groundwater resources will be protected.”

ABOUT SUPERFUND SITES

Established by Congress in 1980, the Superfund program was created to investigate and clean up hazardous waste sites, with the NPL list to be updated annually.

According to EPA data, 487 of the 888 Superfund sites cleaned up for reuse supported approximately 6,600 businesses in 2017.

Ongoing operations at these businesses generate annual sales of $43.6 billion and employ more than 156,000 people who earned a combined income of $11.2 billion, the EPA states.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who established a task force in 2017 designed to bring the Superfund program back to the center of the agency’s work, said that cleaning up toxic sites and returning them to safe and productive reuse is a cornerstone of the EPA’s mission.

“By adding these sites to the proposed and final National Priorities List, we are moving forward in creating a healthier environment for the affected communities,” Pruitt said.

The EPA states that academic research has shown that Superfund cleanups reduce birth defects within roughly one mile of a site as much as 25 percent.

Cleanups also increase tax revenue and create jobs during and after cleanup, according to the EPA.

There are currently 14 active Superfund sites in Delaware, with an additional proposed site in Millsboro.

For more information on the Hockessin site, visit epa.gov/superfund/hockessingroundwater.