DNR orders more testing in Jackson after benzene found in well

JACKSON (WITI) -- The Department of Natural Resources is requesting that West Shore Pipe Line Company and the Village of Jackson water utility increase sampling activities in the Village of Jackson, due to a municipal well serving the village testing positive for benzene.

Officials do not believe the benzene found in the municipal well is a result of last summer's gasoline pipeline burst that sent 55,000 gallons of gasoline into the soil in Jackson. However, officials have not yet identified a secondary source.

An official said the site of the gasoline pipeline burst and the municipal well are far apart, and other chemicals found as a result of the spill were not present in the well.

"Until we come to a formal conclusion on what caused the benzene on this municipal well, we don't have an end date," Village of Jackson Board President Wendy Kannenberg said.

The department learned about the benzene as a result of testing conducted by the West Shore Pipe Line Company on well number six, a public water supply well.

In response to a request from the DNR, the company ordered a retest which confirmed the presence of benzene at 1.6 parts per billion. The test is within the safe drinking water standard of 5 ppb and the department emphasizes that water supplied by village municipal wells has been, and is, safe. However, the department also believes increasing sampling frequency is warranted.

“In the past year, samples were drawn from the well 12 times prior to the latest tests and all 12 times the well had zero detection for benzene,” said Eric Nitschke, southeast regional director for the DNR. “Based on the latest sampling results, we believe it’s necessary to inform residents and request that West Shore and the village increase sampling until we are able to determine the source of the benzene.”

The Village of Jackson has a wellhead protection ordinance and provided the department with an updated inventory of potential contaminant sources near the well earlier this year. There are many potential sources of the benzene and there is no evidence at this time that the benzene is a result of the West Shore pipeline spill.

DNR remediation and redevelopment staff are reviewing and working to identify all potential sources of benzene within one-half mile of the capture zone of the village well.

Benzene is a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and many other industrial products. The DNR has obtained 12,464 samples from 298 wells in conjunction with the pipeline spill in the Town of Jackson.

“The DNR is moving forward in working with the Village of Jackson, West Shore Pipe Line and county health officials to determine the source of the benzene and impacts to the public water system,” added Nitschke.

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