Connecticut is one of 11 states with a very high prevalence of potentially corrosive groundwater, increasing the risk that water running out of the taps of homes with private wells might be tainted with lead, a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found. USGS researchers analyzed nearly three decades of data from more than 20,000 public and private wells nationwide and determined that between 75.3 percent and 84.9 percent of wells in Connecticut could contain corrosive groundwater. If left untreated, corrosive groundwater can leach lead and other metals in pipes en route to the tap, raising health concerns for the estimated 871,000 state residents who rely on private wells as their primary source of drinking water. In Connecticut, the state does not mandate or conduct testing of well water, instead relying on private well owners to maintain, test and treat their own wells. Many well owners are not aware of the risks of corrosion, environmental health activists say.
The moment Mark Spiro walked into G&K Services, an industrial laundry in Waterbury, the steamy air stung his eyes and made his head ache. The place reeked of chemical solvents: methyl ethyl ketone, xylene, toluene – the sickly sweet scents of spray paint permanent markers and model glue. On that day in 2007, Spiro, an air pollution control engineer with Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), discovered high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) pouring from G&K’s roof stacks, the result of laundering shop and print towels contaminated with toxic solvents, state records indicate. The state eventually sued G&K, won a $1.8 million settlement and stopped the facility from laundering shop and print towels in Connecticut. Laundering shop and print towels, which are cloths used to wipe oil, solvent and other chemicals off machinery can fuel the release of VOCs above federal limits. The use and processing of shop towels is largely under-regulated, despite its potential to emit toxic substances into the air. When the DEEP uncovered the chemical release violations at G&K, it alerted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which launched its own investigation into all industrial laundries in New England.