Secondwind Water is an expert in VOC removal
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can contaminate well water in New Hampshire. The most common cause of drinking water contamination due to VOCs in NH comes from proximity to gasoline or fuel exposure. Secondwind Water has decades of experience in VOC removal from water.
Fortunately, VOC contamination from gas or fuel – due to the proximity of the well to a gas station – has decreased. There was a time when we treated 300 to 400 wells annually for gasoline contamination in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Today, we’re down VOC removal on 50 to 80 wells per year.
The way gas stations are constructed today, storage tanks are double walled. In the space between the two walls, there are liquid sensors. If there’s a leak in the inner or outer wall the sensors will pick it up. The sensors allow the tanks to get treated quickly, hopefully before fuel can contaminate groundwater.
While gas/fuel contamination is what we see most often, there are hundreds of VOCs that can contaminate water, including a variety of chemical solvents used in dry cleaning, for example.
Detecting VOCs in your water
We’ve treated homes where we run water at the kitchen sink and it smells like putting gas in the car. But odor is not the absolute indicator. You can also have gasoline contamination at a level that’s unsafe, but below a level that causes an odor. Sometimes you’ll see a rainbow sheen on the surface of the water if you fill a pot or a bathtub, or look in a toilet. However, we’ve also performed VOC removal treated houses where the test indicated gasoline contamination but no sheen was present.
When should you test for VOCs?
If you move into a home on well water and are next to a business that uses gasoline or solvents, we advise getting a VOC test. We use a trusted third-party vendor for VOC testing and the testing cost ranges from $200 to $300.
We recommend testing every five years. But if there are changes near your property, you should test:
- If you’re next to a gas station and they install new tanks, you should do a test.
- If you’re near a body shop, a mechanic or a dry cleaner, it’s advisable to do a VOC test.
- If there’s an earthquake, you should do a test.
- If they do blasting, you should do a test.
- If there’s something you’re worried about, do a test.
There aren’t always warning signs about VOCs. We had a customer in Windham who was an environmental engineer. He did a full scan of his property, spending $2,000 to test all the water. He found VOC. The state did an investigation, and a couple of streets over, they found a homeowner that buried large items like cars and refrigerators in the yard.
That practice of burying “scrap metal” in that yard resulted in VOC contamination of 10 to 15 wells nearby.
We typically perform VOC removal from well water with air stripping and/or activated carbon. Air stripping is the same technology we use for treating radon in water. Some VOCs are more difficult to remove than radon, and we have to use a higher end, more expensive air stripper.
Activated carbon is also used for VOC removal from water. It can be an expensive process, around $4,000 to treat one house. Fortunately, New Hampshire residents have access to a program called the Odd Cleanup Fund, which stands for Oil Discharge and Disbursement.
The fund is a type of insurance policy for gas stations to provide coverage for any mitigation measures due to contamination, including impact on neighboring wells and property.
Under this fund, if you live next door to a gas station, and they have a leak and that gasoline gets into your well, it doesn’t cost the property owner anything to treat the water. It’s covered.
If you’re in proximity to a gas station or have concerns about VOC removal from your water, don’t hesitate to contact our experts.