On the evening of Tuesday, September 27, 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) conducted a public workshop regarding the contamination of the soil and the groundwater beneath Paden City, West Virginia. The workshop was held in the Multi-purpose Room of Paden City High School. Serving as Facilitator of the workshop was USEPA associate Robin Roberts. The soil and groundwater is contaminated by the solvent tetrachloroethylene, also called PCE. It is believed that dry cleaning operations many years ago within the confines of the city boundaries introduced the contaminant into the soil and groundwater. Those dry cleaning activities are no longer in place. The town’s municipal water supply comes from three wells drawing from the groundwater reserves beneath the city. An air stripper system to remove the contaminant from the city’s municipal water supply was installed and placed into service in May 2020. The entire site was placed on the USEPA Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) on March 16, 2022. The NPL is the list of the most serious sites identified for long term clean up.
The objective of the workshop was to inform the public about the Superfund process, to acquaint the public with the USEPA personnel as well as personnel from other Federal and State agencies that are involved, to disclose to the public the cleanup timeline, and to establish two way channels of effective and meaningful communication between the public and the agencies involved in the cleanup. In addition to the USEPA, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the city government of Paden City are the primary public agencies involved in the cleanup efforts. Professional disciplines represented included toxicologists, hydrogeologists, engineers, biologists, and disease specialists. The attendance at Tuesday evening’s workshop was as follows: USEPA, seven representatives; WVDEP, three representatives; ATSDR, two representatives; West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR), one representative; Paden City municipal government, three representatives; Local Press one representative, and forty-five citizens.
The primary pathways in which the contaminant interfaces with the human body is from consuming the water or from exposure to vapors that break free from the water during activities such as cleaning and bathing, and from vapors escaping from the soil and entering homes and buildings.
There was frustration expressed by some of the citizen attendees and centered on the question as to why the contamination issue has not been addressed earlier. When informed by the workshop leaders that a remedial investigation would be conducted from 2022 through 2024, a feasibility study completed in 2025, a proposed remedial action plan available in 2026, and remedial action activities to commence in 2027, that frustration bristled with contained indignation and contempt. However, at least two citizens expressed their appreciation for the presence of the various agency representatives and specialists.
Mayor Steve Kastigar rose and spoke to the assembly. “We’ve got a problem in front of us,” the Mayor said. “We’ve got to band together to solve this problem. We didn’t create the problem, but it’s up to us to solve it. I understand the timeline does not sit well with some people. We’ve got to get into the mindset of working together. The people here tonight in front of us providing this information and assistance are not the enemy.”
Representatives of the Paden City Water Crisis Group were present at the Tuesday evening meeting and distributed copies of a two page document prepared by the group, the document speaking to significant health issues stemming from exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE). Leadership of the Paden City Water Crisis Group are Tonya Shuler and Lisa Davis.
Both Shular and Davis spoke on behalf of the Paden City Residents concerning the health impact the contamination has had on the community as a whole.
The two page document gave a breakdown of facts concerning the danger of PCE in water, soil, and air. Also it provided results from recent studies they have conducted on Paden City residents health problems.
Among those health problems are documented high counts of people with kidney issues, neurological disorders, trouble swallowing, and bladder issues. Paden City is home to less than 2,900 people and they have tallied seven cases of ALS — 50 times the national average (5 per 100,000 people). 18 cases of brain cancer/tumor — 107 times the national average (6 per 100,000). 13 cases of skin cancer — 22 times the national average (21 per 100,000).
They have also documented 13 cases of cancer in pets, 17 pets with kidney issues, and 12 with skin issues.