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Two Wells Closed After Tests Find Chemical Contaminant

May 22, 2004 | AP

Two water wells in Millbury have been shut down after tests found an ingredient used in rocket fuel and explosives.

The Aquarion Water Co., a private investor-owned company which provides water to about 9,000 people in Millbury, shut down the wells Thursday and sent representatives door-to-door with notices telling customers not drink or use the water.

The wells will remain out of service until the company and the state Department of Environmental Protection can develop a treatment plan for the perchlorate, a chemical used to make rocket and jet fuels, fireworks and explosives.

Now that the two wells have been shut down, "there is no perchlorate getting into the system at this time," said DEP spokesman Ed Coletta.

Perchlorate can be found in surface and groundwater around military operations, defense contracting, construction sites or manufacturing facilities. The source of the contamination in the wells has not been found.

The test results revealed perchlorate levels at 42.6 parts per billion at one well, and 18.45 parts per billion at the other, according to DEP.

The general population should not drink water with more than 18 parts per billion, while pregnant women, infants, and children younger than 12 should not drink water with levels at more than 1 part per billion, Coletta said.

Perchlorate affects the thyroid gland, and effects from exposure are similar to those of iodine deficiency. Perchlorate is not absorbed through the skin, and therefore there is no threat from showering or bathing. Perchlorate does not evaporate and there is no danger of exposure from inhalation.

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