TCE Exposure Threat Plagues Residents of Camdenton, Mo.

Despite shuttering in 2012, an industrial site in Camdenton, Mo. continues to cause concerns for residents. Prior to its closing, the plant’s last three tenants used trichloroethylene (TCE) and now many residents are worried about possible exposure levels due to vapor intrusion — the process where chemicals in soil or groundwater transfer to the indoor air above the tainted site.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources indicated air quality samples recently taken from the facility exceeded the regional screening level for industrial air set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Soil gas was also tested and the results were alarmingly high. The threat of TCE exposure is an ongoing concern for residents, as a contaminated well was removed from the city’s water supply system back in 1998, when it tested positive for the volatile organic compound.

TCE Exposure Threat Plagues Residents of Camdenton, Mo.

Primarily used a cleaner to remove grease from metal, TCE can also be found in some paint removers, adhesives, and spot removers. When this chemical compound is used, created, or disposed of, it can be released into the air, water and soil. It decomposes quickly when it hits the air, but lingers in soil and water, and its presence has even been detected in underground water sources and surface waters. Consequently, it has the potential to travel from contaminated soil and groundwater to the indoor spaces of surrounding buildings due to vapor intrusion.

DNR initially tested 10 homes in close proximity to the facility, and all were found to have safe indoor air concentration levels. It is worth noting that vapor intrusion mitigation was completed at one home, but as a precautionary measure. Another 25 homes gave permission for March testing, at which time the previous 10 residences were re-tested, but results have not been publically revealed.

Residents have a right to be very concerned, as long-term exposure to TCE can cause a host of serious health concerns, including an increased risk for certain cancers and potentially detrimental damage to the immune system. Even short-term exposure can be harmful, as it may result in fetal heart malformations.

The town of Camdenton, Mo. and DNR are currently working on a plan to find a permanent solution to treat TCE-contaminated groundwater and prevent it from migrating.

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