Mo. DNR continues monitoring drinking water at local school

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is expanding its investigation efforts near High Point School in Moniteau County to locate the source of groundwater contamination. The department is providing bottled water for the students and faculty as it moves forward with the investigation. Quarterly drinking water samples from High Point School have shown detections of benzene off and on for the past nine years...

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, Sept. 16, 2008 -- The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is expanding its investigation efforts near High Point School in Moniteau County to locate the source of groundwater contamination. The department is providing bottled water for the students and faculty as it moves forward with the investigation.

Quarterly drinking water samples from High Point School have shown detections of benzene off and on for the past nine years. Benzene is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor and is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline products. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's drinking water maximum contamination level, or MCL, for benzene is 5 parts per billion.

In late 2007, the department detected benzene levels in the school's drinking water measured above the MCL at 5.79 parts per billion. The department notified the school of the results, and the school began providing bottled drinking water to the students and faculty. The department has been compensating the school for the cost of the bottled water.

While the school continues using the bottled water, the department continues to monitor the drinking water samples from High Point School well. Benzene levels at the school peeked to 15.4 parts per billion in the first quarter of 2008, before falling to acceptable levels in the second quarter of this year. The MCL is calculated quarterly as a running annual average.

Although the levels of benzene have remained relatively stable under the maximum containment level over the past nine years, the department decided to fund a new well at the school due to the recent elevated results and the many potential sources. The bid received for the new well construction came in higher than expected. The department is re-evaluating the specifications and gathering information on the geography in High Point in hopes to obtain a bid within the budget. The department is also looking into additional funding to assist with the project.

Meanwhile, the department's Division of Geology and Land Survey will drill boring and temporary wells around the school in October. The borings and temporary wells will help the department determine the source and location of the contamination by evaluating the groundwater. While the pollution is most likely petroleum-related, the source of the pollution in the drinking water has not been identified. There are multiple possible responsible parties the department is currently investigating.

If a responsible party is identified by the department, monies could be collected from the responsible party to help pay for a new well and other associated costs related to the cleanup of the contamination.

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