District agrees to retest neigh­bor’s well wa­ter

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric De­vlin ede­vlin@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Eric_Devlin on Twit­ter

PHOENIXVILLE Phoenixville Area School District of­fi­cials have agreed to retest the well wa­ter at a res­i­dence af­ter the home­owner claims it’s been con­tam­i­nated by a nearby district con­struc­tion project.

Neigh­bors said the in­stal­la­tion of a geo­ther­mal heat­ing sys­tem at the new el­e­men­tary school con­struc­tion site has con­tam­i­nated the well wa­ter com­ing into their home and may have given them pneu­mo­nia. The district de­nies any wrong­do­ing, cit­ing doc­u­ments that show it tested the wa­ter and found it safe to drink. It be­lieves the prob­lem isn’t com­ing from the site, but likely from the neigh­bors’ well it­self, ac­cord­ing to district of­fi­cials.

Speak­ing on be­half of her par­ents, William and Mar­ian Menk­ins, Lynn Lind­say stood be­fore the Phoenixville Area School Board Thurs­day night to de­mand a meet­ing with the district and com­plain about the in­stal­la­tion of a geo­ther­mal heat­ing sys­tem at the site of in­com­ing Phoenixville Area Early Learn­ing Cen­ter and Manavon El­e­men­tary School. She said be­cause of the drilling re­quired to in­stall the sys­tem, the wa­ter at her par­ents’ 103 Hal­low­ell Ave. res­i­dence has turned brown and the bac­te­ria in the wa­ter has made them sick.

“You can’t drink it,” Lind­say said. “You can’t bathe in it. You can’t wash your clothes in it.”

The fam­ily be­lieves the con­tam­i­nated wa­ter is what led to 88-year-old William’s nearly 10day stay in the hos­pi­tal for bac­te­rial pneu­mo­nia this past July. William has an ar­ti­fi­cial heart valve and doc­tors told him he must not be ex­posed to any more bac­te­ria or drink any more of the wa­ter or

it could kill him. Mar­ian be­came in­fected with the dis­ease five days af­ter her hus­band, Lind­say said.

The fam­ily claims to have made sev­eral phone calls to

the district since June, specif­i­cally to Stan John­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions, about this wa­ter is­sue, but their calls weren’t re­turned, ac­cord­ing to Lind­say.

Af­ter a Right-to-Know re­quest was filed Thurs­day by Dig­i­tal First Me­dia, the district said it has searched its email records along with

phone records dat­ing back to Aug. 26 but could not find any calls com­ing from the Menk­ins’ num­ber. How­ever, John­son said the district wasn’t ready to give a fi­nal re­sponse to the re­quest just yet and would con­tinue to search its records to make sure.

When the Menk­ins spoke

to the district’s en­gi­neer, An­thony Cutrufello, about the is­sue, the district sent some­one to test the well wa­ter, Lind­say said.

“The ironic thing was that when we got the test re­sults back, in­stead of 103 Hal­low­ell Ave., it was from 111 Hal­low­ell Ave.,” she said. “So we’re still wait­ing for 103

Hal­low­ell’s re­sults.”

Mar­ian said she and her hus­band and the Rossi fam­ily at 111 Hal­low­ell Ave. are the only houses that share the well wa­ter line.

Mean­while, Lind­say said she’s al­ready be­gun the process of de­ter­min­ing what kind of fil­tra­tion sys­tem needs to be in­stalled to re­solve the is­sue.

“It has to be taken care of,” she said. “It can’t go on any longer.”

The district said Thurs­day it would look into the sit­u­a­tion and school board mem­ber Joshua Gould re­quested an up­date on the sit­u­a­tion at the next build­ing and grounds com­mit­tee meet­ing.

District of­fi­cials met with Lind­say and Mar­ian Mon­day af­ter­noon. The district de­nied their claims, cit­ing doc­u­ments which show they tested the wa­ter and re­sults show it is safe to drink. The prob­lem, they said, may be the Menk­ins’ well. The two sides then agreed to re-test the wa­ter. Test­ing was per­formed on Tues­day and re­sults were ex­pected to take about 10 days to come back.

A Right-to-Know re­quest showed doc­u­ments dat­ing from Oct. 28, 2015 to March 17, 2016 sup­port­ing the district’s claim that it had taken nec­es­sary steps to make sure the con­struc­tion project would min­i­mally af­fect the sur­round­ing neigh­bors. In ad­di­tion, doc­u­ments from July 18 to Aug. 2, 2016 show the district tested the Menk­ins’ wa­ter. Re­sults from that test show the wa­ter was ac­cept­able to drink and rec­om­mended the fam­ily con­tact their well in­staller.

Doc­u­ments rang­ing from June 23 to July 17, 2016 also show the Rossi fam­ily, who live at 111 Hal­low­ell Ave., no­ti­fied the district that they were hav­ing is­sues with their wa­ter, specif­i­cally that it smelled like diesel fuel. The wa­ter was tested twice by ALS En­vi­ron­men­tal and the Ch­ester County Health Depart­ment which con­cluded the re­sults were in nor­mal range.

The Rossi fam­ily told Dig­i­tal First Me­dia it was un­able to defini­tively blame their wa­ter is­sues on the district, de­spite hav­ing their wa­ter tested three times, in­clud­ing once by a com­pany they hired. They have since in­stalled a wa­ter fil­tra­tion sys­tem and cleaned their wa­ter tanks, which seems to have re­solved the is­sue.

As for the Menk­ins, they said they are wait­ing on the re­sults of the sec­ond wa­ter test be­fore mak­ing their next move.

Phoenixville Su­per­in­ten­dent Alan Fe­g­ley said the district has agreed to test the Menk­ins’ wa­ter once again, just to be sure.

“We are look­ing to retest the wa­ter to un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “The wa­ter tests that we have show that there was no bac­te­ria in the wa­ter at all. But we will check it again.”

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