Pilkington agree to expand testing

The investigation into the origins of arsenic contaminated soil in Naplate will expand yet again to include more than a dozen additional homes.Thursday, officials with the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency told The Daily Times they have received written agreement from Pilkington North America to sample more properties in the village to track arsenic contamination that they believe originated in Pilkington’s glass manufacturing plant.

“We haven’t even had a chance to tell the homeowners about this,” said U.S. EPA attorney Rick Nagel. “But we are going to be sampling again. And the sooner we can get crews out there, the better.”

Since the 1980s, federal and state environmental officials have periodically investigated reports of arsenic contamination in the village.

But the investigation was stepped up in 2001 after tests revealed contamination outside Pilkington’s plant grounds.

Later tests of nearby residential properties turned up arsenic in varying amounts throughout the village, but particularly high levels of contamination were recorded in two yards.

The findings prompted two Naplate families to file suit against Pilkington.

The international glassmaker purchased the plant from Libbey-Owens-Ford in 1986. But from 1908 to 1970, L-O-F and its predecessors used arsenic to manufacture plate-glass products. From there, the EPA believes, the arsenic spread to the village through the use of fill material to level ground.

And in this new round of testing, that theory will be put to the test.

Since January, the EPA has examined aerial photographs of Naplate dating back to the 1950s, said EPA project manager Fred Bartman. But one area of town, bounded roughly by the Pilkington plant on the north, 23rd Avenue on the west and the railroad tracks on the east, has especially drawn investigators’ attention.

In the old photographs, Bartman said this two-block area, currently supporting about 15 homes, is shown as what he called a “slough,” or wetland area.

“At that time there was a lake, or a wetland area there, that has since been filled in,” said Bartman. “And we intend to check that out.”

Unlike past testing, Bartman said Pilkington has agreed to immediately sample all properties at the surface and “at depth,” or 6-8 feet below.

The EPA would not give a firm timeframe of when the testing would start, saying only that it hoped to begin “sooner rather than later.”

“We hope it will be a matter of days rather than weeks,” said Nagel.

In the meantime, Nagel said the EPA will still eagerly accept any tips or information Naplate residents can provide.

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