Residents in Cairo, New York, near the American Thermostat Superfund site, are struggling to get clean water. Their wells are running dry because the acquifer is being depleted by the Superfund cleanup—an aquifer that was polluted by dumping at the American Thermostat site.
In 1981, the New York EPA discovered that employers of American Thermostat Company were dumping toxic substances down an old septic system. Organic solvents and sludge were dumped right onto the parking lot. Not surprisingly, subsequent testing found TCE, PCE and other VOCs in area groundwater, contaminating local wells. The company installed carbon filters on a few nearby wells and provided bottled water to some area residents.
Just 4 years later—in 1985—American Thermostat went out of business without cleaning up the site as it had promised state officials. The company’s distribution of bottled water also stopped when the company went belly up.
The EPA then took over the cleanup project and water distribution. The Catskill water district extended service to some area residents, and clean up of the aquifer slowly started improving water quality. The EPA has estimated that 30 more years of water treatment lay ahead to finish the clean of the contaminated groundwater.
Now additional homes are finding that their wells are running dry—maybe because of the EPA’s pull on the aquifer to treat the water. They are also concerned about contamination of their wells, but they are outside the EPA’s testing area. These residents are seeking a new extension of municipal water. The town of Catskill is considering how to fund an extension of the South Cairo Water District to serve these families.
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