NEMO, S.D. — After proposing to give a small South Dakota town filters for well water contamination potentially caused the U.S. Forest Service, the agency has shifted to implementing a $1.9 million permanent water supply system.

The agency released a plan this month to upgrade the temporary water system that installed 20 years ago in Nemo and make it a permanent system to serve about a dozen affected locations for free. The system will be operated by and at the expense of the Forest Service, the Rapid City Journal reported.

The contamination may date back to the 1960s, when the agency began spraying ethylene dibromide on trees to kill pine beetles. Researchers eventually discovered that the chemical can infiltrate groundwater and cause cancer in people who consume.

It was only in 1994 that some former Black Hills National Forest employees confessed that during the 1970s they buried corroded 5-gallon cans of the chemical with other waste in a pit at the Forest Service’s Nemo Work Center. The agency only decided to begin testing well water two years later, eventually finding that 12 wells contained concentrations of the chemical that ranged from 70 to 260 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum standard.

The new project’s budget includes construction costs and operation and maintenance costs spread over 30 years.

The work to upgrade the temporary water system currently in place to a permanent system is planned for completion next year.

“We’ve been referring to an alternative or temporary system for years now,” said Ralph Adam, the local forest Service employee who has been in charge of the remediation effort since 2010. “So this will be a sense of finality to make a permanent system for those impacted landowners.”


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com