A University of Georgia professor specialized is research of trichloroethylene or TCE. TCE was a solvent that has been used as a degreaser in the manufacture of automobile parts. Though use of TCE has declined in recent years, contamination from past use is widely spread.
Large plumes or clusters of TCE have seeped into aquifers used for drinking water in certain regions throughout the country. Some of these plumes are as long as six miles and have been continually growing. Though new drinking wells are drilled to replace tainted ones, the plumes have been found to eventually infiltrate these new sources of drinking water. There also does not appear to be the funding or the research to clean up TCE contaminated sites.
The problem with TCE is that it is carcinogenic. While federal drinking water standards only allow 5 parts concentration of TCE per billion, TCE concentrations in some areas are detected as several hundred per billion.
As in so many matters involving contamination of drinking water, we do not fully understand the health consequences related to TCE contamination. Even if substances are listed as being below hazardous levels for consumption, safe level evaluations are prone to change as more information becomes available.
For individuals possibly sickened concerning TCE contamination, they face the problem of not being able to hold accountable those responsible for the contamination to begin with. Many companies have left the area or have gone completely out-of-business.
Residents should be allowed to assume that they can consume something such as drinking water without being exposed to hazardous chemicals. If such consumers suspect that they have been exposed to contaminated ground water, they may wish to speak to an attorney to find out what can be done.
Though companies may be closed down, there may be other parties that can be held accountable for contamination. There often remain corporate ties to responsible parties despite companies being shutdown.
Source: Great Lakes Echo, "Out of sight, out of mind: Carcinogenic chemical spreads beneath Michigan town," Brian Bienkowski, Sep. 12, 2013