WILLIAMSPORT – The Department of Environmental Protection released results of soil and water testing conducted during an ongoing environmental assessment in Selinsgrove, Snyder County, reporting that no imminent public health threats have been identified.
Extensive soil testing in the area in and around Susquehanna University and Weiser Run, near the former Rhoads Mill site, revealed slightly elevated levels of naturally-occurring arsenic at four locations. In addition, elevated levels of herbicides were found in one groundwater monitoring well near the mill, and elevated levels of nitrates were found in two wells.
No other elevated levels of any contaminant were found during three weeks of extensive soil, groundwater, surface water and stream sediment testing in the borough.
“These most recent sample results from Susquehanna University, Weiser Run, Rhoads Mill and surrounding areas in Selinsgrove are fairly consistent with our first round of test results,” DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said. “While some isolated elevated levels of arsenic, nitrates and herbicides were found, we have not discovered an imminent health threat. However, our assessment is continuing through both ongoing physical testing and the review of local historical land uses so that no possible source of environmental contamination is overlooked.”
DEP staff collected the soil, soil vapor, sediment, water and groundwater samples between March 13 and March 26. Samples were analyzed at either the DEP laboratory in Harrisburg or on-site in DEP’s mobile analytical lab. Groundwater samples were analyzed in both labs.
A summary of sample locations and results follows:
Surface Soil Samples – Ten surface soil samples were collected from four athletic fields at Susquehanna University and from a location near the water tower. Samples were compared to soil contamination screening levels established under Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act (Act 2 of 1995).
The samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and metals. Arsenic was detected slightly above DEP’s Act 2 residential statewide health standard of 12 parts per million per kilogram (mg/kg) in two samples at concentrations of 15.6 mg/kg and 16.2 mg/kg. These concentrations are consistent with background levels for this naturally occurring metal in this region. No VOCs were detected in the samples. The SVOC sample results are still being analyzed.
Groundwater – Groundwater samples were compared to DEP and EPA drinking water standards and are reported in micrograms per liter (ug/l), also known as ‘parts per billion’.
A groundwater sample was collected from three of the four existing monitoring wells (one contained no ground water) located near the Theta Chi fraternity house located on university property on March 15 and March 26. The wells were installed following removal of a heating oil tank several years ago. No VOCs or SVOCs were detected.
Water samples were collected on March 13 from the four existing monitoring wells located on the former Rhoads Mill property. The samples were analyzed for VOCs, SVOCs, metals, chloride, sulfate, nitrates and nitrites. Two wells had nitrate levels of 13,760 parts per billion (ug/l) and 66,730 ug/l. These concentrations are above the EPA maximum contaminant level for drinking water of 10,000 ug/l.
In addition, water samples from the monitoring well furthest downstream contained the herbicides metolachlor and alachlor at 87.02 ug/l and 30.37 ug/l.
This well was re-sampled March 23 and the results of 83.42 ug/l and 16.49 ug/l were consistent with the previous sampling. The EPA limit for alachlor is 2 ug/l. There is no limit established for metolachlor.
Elevated levels of herbicides would be cause for concern if groundwater in the area were used for drinking or bathing. However, the water supply wells for Selinsgrove are located in a different aquifer from the Rhoads Mill monitoring wells and the nearest well is over one-half mile away in an apparent upgradient direction. Therefore, the herbicides found in the monitoring well near Rhoads Mill do not represent a public health risk.
EPA and DEP require that public water suppliers regularly test for a range of contaminants. Selinsgrove’s water supply has been tested for alachlor, and no detectable levels have been found.
Weiser Run – Five monitoring points were established along Weiser Run between Orange Street and Water Street. At each point, a soil sample was collected from both stream banks along with a sediment and water sample from the stream. No VOCs were detected in the soil, sediment or water samples. Slightly elevated levels of arsenic – 18.6 mg/kg and 12.3 mg/kg – were found in two of the soil samples. As with samples collected near Susquehanna University, these concentrations are consistent with background levels for this naturally occurring metal in this region.
Geoprobe / Soil Core Sampling – Core samples were collected on March 14, 15, and 16. The soil cores were screened for volatile gases using a photoionization detector and the section of each core with the highest reading was sent to the mobile lab for analysis. No VOCs were detected in the lab analysis of the soil samples.
On March 15, 16, and 19, groundwater samples were collected from eight geoprobe locations. There were no detections of VOCs and no indications of metals contamination.
Additional Air and Soil Vapor Sampling – Twelve additional soil vapor samples were collected on March 14 from outside the area where the first round of soil vapor tested was conducted. No VOCs were detected in these samples.
Indoor air samples were taken on March 15 from two apartments located near David Street. Toluene was detected at well below state limits and is presumed to be the result of activities within the apartments. In addition, a soil vapor sample was collected through the basement floor of a residence along Orange Street. No VOCs were detected in this sample.
DEP is sharing this data with the state Department of Health, which is conducting a cancer data analysis of previously enrolled students and alumni. The Department of Health continues to gather information from the community and to work with Susquehanna University to compare alumni information with the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry and other state cancer registries to determine if there is an excess in cancer incidence or in the cancer types identified.