Upper Nanticoke River Town of Blades a Potential Superfund Site
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are present in drinking water throughout the U.S. These chemicals may increase the risk of cancer and other health effects, and they are very persistent, remaining in the environment indefinitely.
In February of 2018, the Delaware Departments of Public Health and of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) notified the Town of Blades that all 3 of its municipal drinking water wells were contaminated with PFAS. This contamination was investigated by DNREC and the EPA because there was a history of related manufacturing operations in the area. The wells exceeded the national health advisory for combined PFOS/PFOA of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). The Blades wells’ levels ranged from 96.2/ppt to 187.1/ppt.
The source of contamination is still being investigated, but the Peninsula Plating (out of business) and Procino Plating (still in business) facilities are under strong suspicion. Procino Plating has been cited several times for violations of hazardous waste management and was sentenced to five years’ probation for violating the Clean Water Act.
The EPA has found heavy metal and PFAS contamination in 17 of 21 wells on the property of Procino Plating and in three wells on Peninsula Plating property. It has proposed adding Blades to its National Priorities (Superfund) sites list of the most contaminated sites in the country because its groundwater contains both industrial metals and PFAS. This listing would make Federal funds available for cleanup.
The Town of Blades has installed carbon filtration within its municipal water treatment plant to remove the contaminants and the water has been determined to be safe to drink at this point. Sampling in the Nanticoke River showed contamination by PFAS at one site, on Morgan Branch Creek, and by heavy metals, including arsenic, cyanide, and hexavalent chromium, in a number of surface water samples.