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EPA sets meeting on fume probe

The source of the fumes is still under investigation, and the EPA brought in a special probe this week to gather information from the groundwater in the area.
Scotta Callister

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on May 29, 2015 2:35PM

Last changed on May 29, 2015 2:58PM

Contractors use a small drilling rig to collect groundwater samples near Canyon Boulevard in southwest John Day.

Contributed photo

Contractors use a small drilling rig to collect groundwater samples near Canyon Boulevard in southwest John Day.

JOHN DAY – Residents are invited to a meeting this Sunday, May 31, to learn more about the investigation into fumes that have been seeping into houses and offices in southwestern John Day.

The informational session will be from 2-4 p.m. at the Forest Service Supervisor’s Office, 431 Patterson Bridge Road.

Judy Smith, community outreach coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency, said the intent is to update residents whose homes are affected by the fumes, as well as any other interested citizens.

Members of the EPA emergency response team will be joined by representatives of the state Department of Environmental Quality, John Day city departments, and Grant County Health Department at the meeting.

The EPA has been in John Day for a week working on the investigation. Initial testing found varying levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the air in some 27 homes.

The substance causing the fumes is thought to be moving through the loose, rocky soils of the area in the groundwater.

It is not yet known where the substance is entering the soil, but the team is continuing to test the air and ground in the area.

Earlier this week, the EPA brought in a geo probe, a small track-mounted drilling rig, from Seattle to help with the investigation. Agency contractors were using the probe to take groundwater samples in the area.

Officials on Friday were awaiting results of the samples, which they said could help identify the source.

Contractors also are retesting the indoor air in homes where the VOCs were recorded earlier to see what effect ventilation and other measures are having.

Smith said the EPA continues to emphasize the importance of ventilation to air out crawl spaces, basements and living areas. She also said it’s not a one-time remedy.

“As long as we have the source moving underground, they need to keep doing the ventilation,” she said.

She said the agency’s first concern is to make sure residents are safe, and then to pin down the source, get it stopped, and help coordinate any cleanup of soils that may be required.


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