Residents pressure Lower Windsor Township to address drinking water concerns

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

A group of concerned citizens has asked Lower Windsor Township officials for support after a resident found high levels of a toxic contaminant in their well water.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, come from water-resistant materials or nonstick cookware and can last an extremely long time in the human body or nature, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

JoAnn Dietz, of Gun Club Road, represented a group of Lower Windsor citizens who recently had their well water tested for the substances, which have been linked to cancer and other health problems.

“I am here to tell you I am not an activist. I am a concerned, conservative resident of this township, of which I have been all my life,” Dietz said, “I feel clean water is a fundamental right we should all enjoy and deserve.”

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Among the requests, the group asked the township to either pay for monthly water sampling and testing, which the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association has been doing on their own dime for the past year, or donate to the riverkeepers.

Water sampling with local environmentalists Ted Evgeniadis, the lower Susquehanna riverkeeper from Mt. Wolf, and Cindy Pizziketti, from Springettsbury, along the Kruetz Creek in Hallam on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis, who was at the meeting on Thursday night, has tested creek water almost every month in 2022 to track of levels of boron, nitrates and PFAS in Kreutz Creek. He also tested a resident's well water that came back with high levels of PFAS, he said.

PFAS concerns are not just limited to Pennsylvania. Evgeniadis presented the results of a nationwide PFAS study the Water Keeper Alliance recently conducted. In the study, over 100 water keeper groups tested local waterways near potential PFAS pollution sources across 34 states, the report said.

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“That study did reveal that York County, Pennsylvania, Kreutz Creek had the highest levels of PFAS in the entire country, which is super alarming,” Evgeniadis said.

Evegeniadis's group, meanwhile, has threatened to sue the owners of Modern Landfill to force more rapid compliance with a 2020 consent decree it signed with the state Department of Environmental Protection over wastewater discharged into Kreutz Creek containing various pollutants.

The levels of PFOS and PFOA measured in the landfill’s discharges are 18,715 and 211,750 times higher, respectively, than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance levels, according to Riverkeeper data. 

Republic Services, the operator of Modern Landfill, has said it is working with the state DEP and is in compliance with the consent decree.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked high PFAS exposure to several health issues, such as increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, small decreases in infant birthweight, increased cholesterol levels and other issues.

While there are no enforceable PFAS restrictions on groundwater at the federal or state level, there are health advisories for PFAS levels in drinking water from the EPA. Pennsylvania however, may soon have enforceable regulations for PFAS in drinking water, as a DEP committee is reviewing the final version of the regulations on Thursday, Nov. 17, moving it closer to being official standards.

“Now is the time to look for solutions — not only for what we need to address now, but what we will be facing in the future,” Dietz said.

Citizens requested the township provide monthly updates about the status of the landfill wastewater discharge permit. Dietz called for a township monitor to keep track of the landfill and provide findings from water testing to the township.

The monitor is a volunteer position, and the township had reached out to see if anyone had an interest to be trained for the position, according to Phil Rohrbaugh, a supervisor.

Residents also requested the township put signs along the creek, warning of the contaminants and advising people to not drink or come into contact with the water.

Water sampling with local environmentalists Ted Evgeniadis, from Mt. Wolf, in Hallam on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

The supervisors reviewed some steps they've already taken and shared with the public but did acknowledge the severity of resident concerns. “As we move into wells, that’s a pretty serious issue,” Rohrbaugh said. 

In addition to notifying DEP and EPA of the Riverkeeper's findings, the township has reached out to both Republic Services and the DEP about arranging separate meetings where each group would listen and answer citizen questions and concerns, Rohrbaugh said.

Tim O’Donnel, the general manager at Modern Landfill, said they had agreed to a public forum where they could share information about the treatment plant and further details on the landfill’s commitment to environmental protection.

However, no date for the forum was given.

The DEP agreed to respond to citizen questions posted to the township website, and in turn the township would post the written answers, Rohrbaugh said.

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.