U of A Officials: Test indicating groundwater contamination “an anomaly”
By J.C. Huntington
Dateline: Page-Trowbridge radioactive/toxic waste landfill, Wednesday August 23, 2000 
Posted to PoisonedWells web site August 26, 2000
Updated Monday August 28, 2000
     Officials from the University of Arizona disclosed that tests on a groundwater sample taken from one of the monitoring wells at the Page- Trowbridge radioactive/toxic waste landfill last April found toluene (a toxic contaminate, harmful to human health) at a concentration of 3.7 parts per billion (ppb), resulting in re-sampling and re-testing of the  groundwater 15 days later. 

       The subsequent test detected  no toluene, according to University of Arizona officials responsible monitoring the Page- Trowbridge landfill for possible contamination of the aquifer. 

       The Page-Trowbrige radioactive/ toxic waste landfill is owned by the University of Arizona. 

       While previous indications of contamination at the Page-Trowbridge site were discounted as having resulted from errors made by the independent testing labs used by the U of A, the finding of 3.7 ppb of toluene detected in April of this year was not the result of a lab error, according to Steve Holland, Director of the University of Arizona's Risk Management and Safety department, and Lloyd Wundrock, U of A Environmental Safety Officer.

      When asked for their opinion as to what could explain the finding of toluene in one sample and no toluene in the sample taken from the same well 15 days later, both Holland and Wundrock said that the finding was “an anomaly”.

       The test finding was divulged to Oracle residents at the Page-Trowbridge radioactive/toxic waste landfill last Wednesday, August 23 during groundwater sampling by U of A Risk Management and Safety personnel. 

       Oracle residents attended as observers and videotaped the event.

Lloyd Wundrock, U of A Environmental Safety Officer (left), guides a bailer into a monitoring well at Page-Trowbridge radioactive/toxic waste landfill.

       The sampling done last Wednesday was occasioned by a meeting last April between concerned Oracle residents and representatives from the U of A, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

       At that meeting representatives from Oracle expressed discomfort with the University of Arizona's method of sampling the groundwater used for detecting possible contamination of the groundwater by the U of A's Page- Trowbridge landfill, and urged that samples be taken using a different method called 'bailing'  The U of A agreed that a sampling of the groundwater should be done using the bailing method. 

       Additionally, Steve Holland, Director of the University of Arizona’s Risk Management and Safety department, promised  to send the results of all groundwater tests to the citizens of Oracle via Cliff Russell, an Oracle resident,  and a date was set to take samples using the bailing method.

       During the most recent groundwater sampling last Wednesday Oracle resident Russell asked Director Holland and Safety Officer Wundrock if they knew why he had not received the results of the last groundwater tests.

      U of A Environmental Safety Officer Lloyd Wundrock told Russell he thought that he had mailed a copy of the test results to Russell in May, but later acknowledged that he may have forgotten to do so. 

      Director Holland promised that a copy of the test results would be sent to Russell as soon as possible, and that he would personally take steps to assure that future results were made available in a timely manner.

       Safety Officer Wundrock then divulged the fact that previous sampling of groundwater taken from  Monitoring Well #5 on April 26, 2000 revealed the presence of 3.7 ppb of toluene. 

       Wundrock said that a subsequent sample from that well had shown no toluene when tested by the lab employed by the U of A.

      Wundrock explained the procedure for sampling groundwater at the Page- Trowbridge radioactive/toxic waste landfill: 

  • The landfill has four monitoring wells around the landfill. Two samples are taken from each of the four monitoring wells at the site.
  • The purpose of the monitoring wells is to detect the intrusion of toxic contaminants into the water supply that provides drinking water to several local communities.
One sample from each well is sent to a lab for testing and the U of A Office of Risk Management  retains the other samples (called duplicates). 
    The bottles containing the samples are marked with the identification of the well from which they were taken.
  • In the event that contamination is detected in an original sample, the duplicate is then sent to the lab selected by the U of A, and tested to validate the finding.
    If the duplicate is found to be contaminated, then contamination is confirmed and remedial action initiated if the level of contamination is above a certain level; otherwise the finding  is not confirmed, and the water is declared safe to drink.
  • The shelf life of a duplicate is 14 days.

  • In other words, if a duplicate is over 14 days old, it cannot be used and a new set of samples must be obtained.
       Wundrock explained that in the case of the April 26, 2000 samples, the testing lab failed to notify him by phone when they detected toluene in the original sample from Monitoring Well #5, as is the normal procedure.  As a result, the University of Arizona was unaware of the toluene finding until they received the written lab report.  The report was received after the 14 day ‘shelf-life’ of the duplicate sample from monitoring well #5 had expired. 

       As a result of these events, U of A personnel, under the direction of Wundrock, re-visited the Page- Trowbridge radioactive/toxic waste landfill on May 17 and re-sampled monitoring well #5.  Tests on this sample showed no toluene.

       Wundrock showed Oracle residents a copy of a letter he had written in some four months earlier (May of 2000).  The purpose of the letter was to inform the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) of the finding of 3.7 ppb of toluene in the groundwater sample and the subsequent re-sampling and re-testing of the groundwater from monitoring well #5. 

       Wundrock had the copy of the four month old letter in the truck he used to travel to the Page-Trowbridge landfill for the groundwater sampling requested by the concerned Oracle residents. 

       Oracle representatives were allowed to read the letter, but Wundrock explained that they were not allowed to take the letter from the site due to legal constraints. 

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