EPA to test Verona, Mo. private wells for possible cancerous chemical

Published: Oct. 11, 2019 at 5:15 PM CDT
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Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shared what they could Friday with leaders in Verona, Mo. The EPA is working to discover if a dangerous chemical has seeped into ground and well water.

The short-notice meeting came a little more than six weeks after the agency reported it found two dangerous chemicals at the Syntex site. The site is now operating as BCP Ingredients, but was known to produce Agent Orange decades ago.

At a public meeting in August, the EPA told residents one of those chemicals -- dioxin -- was contained, but the agency was not certain about the status other chemical, dioxane.

Friday, the EPA shared plans to start testing private wells in Verona for dioxane, but the mayor wants answers much sooner than that.

"Why, when there's questions asked, why ain't there just an out forthcoming answer?" Mayor Joseph Heck asked EPA officials in Friday's meeting.

Heck and about a dozen of the people he represents listened to EPA's plans to see if the chemical is in their ground and drinking water.

"They go around the answers instead of straight-shooting. I'm a straight-shooter guy. I like answers in yes, no, maybe, possibly," Heck said to KY3 News.

Mayor Heck simply wants to know if dioxane is posing a health risk to his city.

"And there are no answers. At all. To what it could be doing to the health of the children, the women, the men of the family," he said.

Ben Washburn, an EPA spokesperson, explained there's only one main way people can get sick from dioxane in this situation.

"You need to be drinking contaminated water for there to be a health risk," Washburn said.

Washburn said the EPA has kept a close watch on the industrial site. Its next step will be testing private wells, starting this winter.

"If there is a risk, we can provide alternate drinking supplies, but we need to get out there and do that testing first," Washburn said.

Washburn said the EPA is dedicated to protecting Verona residents, but Mayor Heck isn't so sure. He's frustrated over having to fight for answers about something so important to everyone.

"With no true answers, we can't trust them. The wool is getting pulled over our eyes, that's just how I feel," Heck said.

Heck said it shouldn't be taking so long to get the testing done.

"If there's something in your water, and they say they're going to test it for you but never do, think about how much more you're drinking out of your well that could be hazardous to your health," Heck said.

Heck and other city council members might bring in a third-party company to do the well water testing.

The EPA plans to start its testing in December, but results might take much longer.

Washburn said EPA officials will be back in Verona in the beginning of November for another public update.