Andrews under water do-not-use advisory

The Town of Andrews is under a do-not-use advisory and is handing out bottled water to its residents while it works on solving an emergency to its water supply.

Andrews Clerk-Treasurer Laury Powell says the situation has led to a lawsuit being filed June 19, after testing discovered TCE and vinyl chloride potentially being present in the water.

Huntington County Homeland Security/Emergency Management posted a warning to Andrews residents not to use the town’s water until further advised. A test has revealed that the water contains contaminants above Federal Safe Drinking Water Standards.

The agency announced that within an hour of Huntington County EMA contacting the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, they had several pallets of water en route to Andrews.

Powell says residents must not consume the water that comes through their taps: no drinking, cooking or using water to brush teeth; however, other uses such as using lukewarm (not hot) water for laundry, dishes and brief showers are allowable. Do not heat or boil the water, Powell advises.

All of these measures are precautionary until the town can guarantee the water is properly treated by an air stripper owned and operated by United Technologies.

While Powell cannot comment on the pending litigation, she wants residents to be aware of what the town is calling a “water crisis” and that officials are doing the best they can to alleviate the problem. Powell says she has had to deal with several angry residents who don’t understand the situation.

“We’re actually trying to get the situation corrected,” she adds. “It’s just very recent that the issue came to our attention. There have been some other underlying issues that’s gone back years.”

Defendants named in the suit are Raytheon Technologies Corporation, formerly known as United Technologies Corporation (UTC), Lear Corporation Eeds and Interiors and CP Product Group, LLC (collectively, “Raytheon Defendants.”).

The suit charges the town has three municipal wells, which it can use to supply the public with drinking water. It states the Raytheon defendants contaminated the groundwater aquifer that supplies water to the wells by dumping and spilling hazardous chemicals at the factory they operated in the town. As a result of the conduct, the suit alleges all three of the town’s municipal wells have been contaminated and one well has evidence of increasing levels of vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen.

An affidavit by James Wells, principal geologist and chief operating officer for L. Everett & Associates, LLC, an environmental hydrogeology and remediation company hired to inspect the water toxicity, states UTC was required by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to install a treatment system intended to strip its contaminants from Andrews’ drinking water (after it has been pumped from the wells but before delivery to the town’s residents). This system – known as an air stripper – does not include redundant safety features and has not been managed properly, Wells states, and goes offline frequently.

Wells added the town cannot shut down the water supply while it waits for UTC to repair the air stripper, thus exposing residents to drinking water containing potentially dangerous levels of vinyl chloride (a known human carcinogen) as well as other chemicals.
He also states that surface water, including Loon Creek, has also been contaminated by UTC’s chemical releases.

Officials in Andrews called a town meeting Monday, June 22, to discuss the emergency and possible steps needed to return the town’s water supply to safe levels.

In the meantime, residents can pick up bottled water at the town garage.

More information, including details of affidavits involving the situation have been posted on the town’s website, andrewsindiana.net, under the “Activities” button. If the garage is closed, and it is within town hall business hours, residents are asked to come to the drive-up window at the Clerk’s office. (The town hall building itself is closed to the public at this time.) Do not pick up water more than once a day. Residents may be asked for name and address, ID, or a current utility bill.