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EPA Announces $1 Million for Pascoag MTBE Cleanup; Funding Boosts EPA Support for Cleanup to $2.4 Million

Release Date: 06/25/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

PROVIDENCE – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that another $1 million has been made available to help in the cleanup of contaminated groundwater in the Pascoag Utility District in Burrillville, RI.

The EPA funding, announced by Governor Donald Carcieri and EPA’s New England Regional Administrator Robert W. Varney at a State House news conference, will expedite and expand the cleanup of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive, that has shut down drinking water supplies for more than 4,000 area residents since 2001. The contamination was traced to a leaking underground storage tank from a gas station that is now closed.

The new funds will be used by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management to install and operate a second groundwater treatment system that will pump and treat up to100 gallons of contaminated groundwater a minute from a 14-acre area where the MTBE plume from the spill is most concentrated. The system is expected to begin operating later this summer.

Most of this groundwater will be treated and disposed of off-site, but a small portion – five gallons a minute – will be diverted to a bio-reactor for treatment using a biodegradation technology that will use micro-organisms to break down the MTBE to carbon dioxide and water. This new technology will be piloted at the Pascoag site for six months as part of a project with EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

The funding will also expedite the installation of a third water remediation system in the area of the two well fields shut down by the contamination.

“This funding will help enormously in getting all aspects of this cleanup up and running as quicky as possible, especially the groundwater remediation systems,” said Varney , regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office, who praised DEM for its work in cleaning up one of the worst MTBE contamination cases of its kind in New England.

"This is great news for the residents of Pascoag,” said Governor Carcieri. “Unfortunately, two years after MTBE was discovered in Pascoag's water supply, the contamination remains. By helping to remediate the MTBE contamination, this federal funding will help make the community of Pascoag whole again. I want to thank Bob Varney and the EPA for their assistance, Jan Reitsma and DEM for their efforts, Senator Lincoln Chafee for his leadership on the MTBE issue, and the rest of Rhode Island's congressional delegation.”

DEM removed the source of the MTBE contamination – four underground storage tanks and associated equipment from the gas station – last fall. The agency has also removed more than 2,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and installed a groundwater remediation system that has recovered more than 2,700 equivalent gallons of gasoline. About 965,000 gallons of petroleum-contaminated groundwater has been recovered at the former gas station, treated and disposed of. All of this work was funded last year with an earlier $1 million grant from EPA’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund.

Varney said he appreciated the efforts of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation in obtaining the additional $1 million of funding, particularly U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Superfund and Waste Management, which has jurisdiction over MTBE issues. Senator Chafee has been active in drawing national attention to the MTBE problem and the need for financial assistance.

MTBE and other gasoline components were first detected at high levels in the village’s drinking water in September 2001. The MTBE was traced to a leak from a gas station, which has declared bankruptcy and is unable to fund the cleanup.

The Pascoag Water District and DEM initially provided bottled water to the more than 4,000 affected residents, and an interim filter system was installed at the wells. The village well field is now shut down and residents are now receiving drinking water from the adjacent village of Harrisville, also in Burrillville