By Chris Parker
The Morning Call Inc., Copyright 2006

February 2, 2006

The Tamaqua Water Authority will meet with two former state scientists to figure out which studies should be done to determine whether the Rush Township reservoir that serves the borough is contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals leached from a nearby Superfund site.

The meeting also will explore costs for such studies, who should perform them and how long they would take. The meeting hasn’t been scheduled.

”If there is something wrong, I want to know about it,” said Water Authority Chairman John Tracy, whose family lives in the area.

Results of a small 2004 study of the Still Creek reservoir that Central Valley lab Benchmark Analytics did for the authority were inconclusive, officials said.

The call for a new, more thorough study gained momentum when a fish that a local man caught last year in the reservoir was found to have a large tumor.

The tumor, West Penn Township physician Peter Baddick said as he displayed a glossy color picture of the gutted fish, was of a type caused by benzene, pyrenes or similar chemicals.

The chemicals are among those in materials dumped decades ago into mine tunnels beneath the former McAdoo Associates Superfund site in Kline Township, which is near the reservoir.

On Wednesday, residents and officials met at the Tamaqua office of state Rep. David G. Argall, R-Schuylkill, to discuss plans for the new study.

Baddick suggested former state Department of Environmental Protection scientists Edward Shoener and Robert Gadinski meet with borough water officials to determine the scope of the testing.

Tests would be done under the auspices of the authority, which operates the reservoir.

State Sen. James J. Rhoades, R-Schuylkill, and Argall have promised to get money to pay for the testing. Authority member Brian Connely said water from the reservoir is tested regularly and customers’ water has been filtered and treated.

He said the Water Authority has extensive information on hand that would contribute to the study.

Concerns about chemicals in drinking water that cause cancer and other illnesses and the number of residents who say they have a rare disease called polycythemia vera, which causes the blood to thicken, prompted a state Department of Health study of cancer rates in the area.

That study, released last month, concluded the Rush Township/Tamaqua area doesn’t have an unusually high number of cases of polycythemia vera.

Residents at a packed public meeting Jan. 18 disputed the findings and criticized the state for failing to study possible links between the chemicals dumped at McAdoo Associates and illness.