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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The shelf life of a duplicate is 14
In other words, if a duplicate is
over 14 days old, it cannot be used and a new set of samples must be obtained.
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
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