News Release: CRREL uncovers traces of TCE at its facility and in Vermont well water

Release No. 90-23
Published Dec. 31, 1990

HANOVER, NH--The Army's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) has notified federal. state and local officials that in November they uncovered traces of trichloroethylene (TCE) in three of four wells on Army-controlled property.

Afler finding the contamination, CRREL extended its sampling area to the Connecticut River. a town of Hanover well north of CRREL, and across the river to the Norwich, Vt. water supply, and eight private water wells near the river in the town of Norwich.

CRREL completed and confirmed these testing results on December 14.

CRREL found no detectable traces of TCE in the Hanover or Norwich water supplies. Two of the eight Vermont wells tested at about 50 parts per billion (ppb), while a third tested at about 1,000 ppb. The remaining five showed no detectable quantities of TCE contamination.

EPA has identified TCE as a possible carcinogen and established an allowable level of five ppb.
There are numerous possible sources for the TCE contamination at both Army-controlled property in New Hampshire and across the river at the private wells in Vermont.

TeE has been commonly used as a commercial solvent for dry cleaning and dcgrcasing and as a commercial refrigerant. TeE was used as a refrigerant at CRREL from 1962 to 1987.

The problem came 10 light in November when CRREL researchers were investigating the possible release of another chemical, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), that was a constituent of a polymer concrete analyzed by CRREL for the Air Force in 1985-86. Though CRREL found no traces of PCE, traces of TCE were found.

Two incidents of TCE contamination involve CRREL. In both cases CRREL followed the federal and state regulations covering TCE in effect at the time.

CRREL stored TCE in a buried tank at its main laboratory from 1962 to 1973. When CRREL disposed of the tank, its researchers found that the chemical had leaked and soaked into the ground.

There was also an above-the-ground tank at CRREL in the 1960s which exploded and burned, spilling approximately 6,000 gallons of the chemical onto the ground and into the river.

CRREL has also used TCE for the refrigeration system In its deep ice coring well. This well has a steel lining that should prevent migration of the chemical into the substrata.

CRREL will work closely with other federal and state agencies 10 determine whether additional water supplies in the vicinity of CRREL contain TCE. CRREL will also support efforts to identify the sources for each contamination and lake remedial action in areas for which the Army is responsible.

In addition, CRREL has provided potable water supplies for the three residences where traces of TCE were found. CRREL will test other nearby wells upon request. Lt. Col. Rick Miller should be contacted at (603) 646•4202