EPA Proposes Georgetown North Groundwater Site in Southern Delaware for Superfund Cleanup List
Georgetown site’s proposal to the EPA National Priorities List opens opportunity for public comments
PHILADELPHIA (March 18, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to add the Georgetown North Groundwater site in Sussex County, Delaware, to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) today. The NPL is the list of hazardous waste sites in the United States eligible for remedial cleanup action financed under the federal Superfund program.
“No community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, play, and go to school. Nearly 2 out of 3 of the sites being proposed or added to the priorities list are in overburdened or underserved communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA is building a better America by taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect communities’ health, and return contaminated land to safe and productive reuse for future generations.”
The Georgetown North Groundwater site is a groundwater plume – an area of groundwater that has been polluted by a contaminant release at a concentration above the laboratory reporting limit. The area encompasses approximately one square-mile underlying commercial and residential areas within the town of Georgetown in southern Delaware. While the public drinking water in Georgetown meets state and federal standards, the groundwater is contaminated with the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and its breakdown products. PCE, sometimes referred to as perc, is an organic chemical introduced in the environment by commercial and industrial operations, such as solvents used by dry cleaning activities. EPA considers PCE as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.
The groundwater plume has two known former dry-cleaning sources – Georgetown Dry Cleaners and Thoro-Kleen Dry Cleaners. Plumes from these two facilities appear to have co-mingled and contributed to the contamination of municipal groundwater wells in Georgetown. There may also be other potential contributors to this plume which have not yet been fully investigated.
“If finalized, today’s proposed listing will enable us to continue our joint work, to investigate and remediate the contamination in the Georgetown area,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “While the Georgetown Water Department is effectively treating the water supply, additional cleanup of the groundwater will maintain safe drinking water and protect human health and the environment in this community for many years to come.”
The state of Delaware began their investigation into potential sources when the water authority reported contaminants in the untreated water in 1985. The state has previously conducted response actions at both the Georgetown Cleaners and Thoro-Kleen Dry Cleaners to remove storage tanks above and below ground.
Groundwater was not addressed during these tank removal activities at either property. The town uses groundwater wells as the primary source of drinking water in this area. Georgetown upgraded its water treatment plant in 2017 to remove the contaminants and currently meets all federal and state health standards for drinking water.
Vapor intrusion, a process by which chemicals in soil or groundwater can travel to indoor air above a contaminated site, may also pose a risk to residents and workers in buildings near the groundwater plume. EPA will be conducting additional vapor intrusion investigations of buildings in the area in the upcoming months.
The state of Delaware referred the site to EPA in 2016 to assist in more fully characterizing the extent of the groundwater contamination. The State has concurred on EPA’s decision to list the Georgetown North Groundwater site to the NPL.
When EPA proposes to add a site to the NPL, the Agency publishes the proposed rule in the Federal Register and notifies the community through the local media so interested members of the community can comment on the proposal.
There will be a 60-day comment period from March 18 – May 17, 2022, where the public can comment on the listing of the Georgetown North Groundwater site. EPA will consider those comments in the final decision on listing the site on the NPL. EPA will also hold a public information session during the comment period to explain the Superfund process to the community.
If after the formal comment period, the site still qualifies for cleanup under Superfund, the Agency will publish a final rule in the Federal Register and Georgetown North Groundwater will become a Superfund Site. EPA would then conduct a more comprehensive investigation of the Site, to determine the full nature and extent of contamination and examine potential remedies.
More information about the proposal can be found at: www.epa.gov/superfund/georgetowngroundwater
All comments received will be treated equally. During the comment period, comments may be submitted in one of two ways:
For information about Superfund and the NPL: http://www.epa.gov/superfund