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STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

BURNET — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has launched a followup investigation to try to narrow down the source of suspected well water contamination using monitoring devices on the courthouse square in Burnet.

As early as 2010, two of nine Burnet County monitoring wells tested positive for tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene (PERC), on private properties primarily used for livestock and land irrigation. However, concerns about the extent of the contamination launched the initial investigation by the federal agency.

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The followup testing “helps (the EPA) identify the source and narrow down the areas of possible sources of contamination,” Burnet City Manager David Vaughn said.

Residents can expect to see crews with the agency installing devices known as “sniffers” and potentially drilling monitoring wells in the right-of-way on the southwest corner of the courthouse square at Jackson and Main streets.

Another area of testing is the right-of-way at Surecast and Industrial streets at U.S. 281 south in Burnet, just west of the city wastewater plant.

“The testing they’re doing at Jackson and Main is to see if the (contaminant) originated in the downtown area,” Vaughn said. “It has tested positive on wells south of the square, and as you move northward towards the square, those levels get higher and higher.”

EPA officials could determine whether a former downtown dry-cleaning business might have contributed to the source.

City officials said the testing should not raise concerns among residents.

“It does not affect the city of Burnet’s drinking supply water at all,” Vaughn said.

The city derives its water primarily from two wells located on U.S. 281 North within the city limits and a city water plant at Inks Lake.

“There are a couple of wells located on the south side of town that are on private property that may be affected,” Vaughn said. “I do not believe any of those wells are for drinking water purposes.”

During the 2010 round of testing, EPA concerns involved the groundwater source, the San Saba-Ellenburger Aquifer, in a 2-mile stretch along U.S. 281 south and east of Burnet in the area of county roads 340 and 340A.

If the upcoming round of tests narrows down the source, more landowners could be affected.

“The good thing (is) the (contaminant) that is being detected is at relatively low levels, so there’s no reason to believe there’s any threat to the public at this time,” Vaughn said. “The EPA will be working with those landowners to determine if there are any issues.”

The federal agency could make a determination about potential cleanup based on the the extent of the contamination.

“They may locate the source, but it’s testing at such a low level they may not take any action,” he said.

connie@thepicayune.com

2 thoughts on “EPA to ‘sniff’ out contaminants with test wells on Burnet square

  1. It is good to know that responsible people are caring for these concerns now, before they get out
    Of control.

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