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Contaminated water in downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming spreads to 70 homes

The Wyoming Tribune is reporting that perchloroethylene (PCE, also known as tetrachloroethlene), among other chemicals, have been found in a 20 acre groundwater plume that is moving southward. The source of the plume is a Safeway store. The levels of perchloroethlene contamination are higher than federal safety standards.

Perchloroethylene is used as a degreaser and in dry cleaning operations. Unsafe environmental exposure to perchloroethylene can cause various medical problems. According to the EPA, the major effects from chronic inhalation exposure to tetrachloroethylene are neurological effects, including sensory symptoms such as headaches, impairments in cognititve and motor neurobehavioral functioning and color vision decrements. Other effects noted in humans include cardiac arrhythmia, liver damage, and possible kidney effects. Effects resulting from acute, inhalation exposure to tetrachloroethylene vapors include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and at lower concentrations, neurological effects, such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconciousness.

The city water supply is not affected. However, vapors can travel upward through the soil and enter buildings through their foundations. The Department of Environmental Quality is offering free testing, and if needed, a free ventilation system to remove the toxic fumes. So far, 30 homes and 39 businesses are known to be affected.

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