- Associated Press - Thursday, May 8, 2014

YORK, Neb. (AP) - Two sites near York where industrial contamination is threatening groundwater supplies have been designated national priorities for cleanup.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will take the lead on cleaning up the contamination near York.

The contamination from industrial chemicals has affected at least 20 drinking water wells, and it has been found less than a mile away from one of the city’s main well fields.

“It signifies that it is one of the highest priority sites in the country,” EPA spokesman Ben Washburn said.

Most of the wells that have been contaminated are private wells, but one city well had to be taken offline because of the plume of underground contamination.

The chemicals causing this contamination are chlorinated solvents that are used by a number of different businesses, and the source of the contamination hasn’t been identified, Washburn said.

One of the groundwater contamination sites is on the north side of York. That area just outside the city limits includes some industrial companies and several rural homes.

The second contamination site includes the central and southeast portions of York.

The EPA said the new municipal public water well field on the north side of the city is endangered because it is less than an eighth of a mile from a plume of contamination and in its path.

The EPA has already provided alternate sources of water to nine homes because their private wells were contaminated. Spokesman Ben Washburn said those homes either received a filtration system to remove the chemicals from the water, or they were hooked up to the city’s water system.

In addition to working to ensure that the chemicals aren’t affecting drinking water, the EPA has begun developing a long-term cleanup plan for the area.

It’s not clear yet what will be involved in the long-term cleanup plan because EPA scientists still have to investigate the contamination and the area.

Officials have not determined yet how much of the cleanup cost will be paid for by the federal, state and local governments. If the EPA can identify the sources of contamination, the agency may be able to recover some of the cleanup cost from those companies.

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