Probe continues into discovery of Sequim refrigerant

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Public health officials are at least several weeks away from determining why Freon 22, a banned refrigerant, was found in wells serving residences outside Sequim.

Jennifer Garcelon, project manager with the Clallam County Health and Human Services Environmental Health Department, said officials are considering sites to sample the water and have tests run to attempt to centralize the contamination point.

Those samples could take more than three weeks to yield test results, she said Thursday.

Trace amounts of Freon 22, commonly used in old heat pumps and air conditioners, were discovered during a volatile organic compounds test in the Deytona Water System, which serves 27 homes north of Sequim. The test is given to Class A water systems every three years.

Subsequent tests also showed Freon 22 in four additional nearby private wells.

No health threat

The levels at which Freon 22 were detected do not present a health threat, state and local officials said last week.

Freon 22 evaporates into a gas form as soon as it hits ambient air, as its boiling point is below freezing.

Those concerned can boil water or run it through a charcoal filter, Garcelon said.

Multiple tests of the water from Deytona and four private wells nearby showed a Freon 22 concentration that ranged from 20 to 239 parts per billion.

There are no state or federal regulations on how much Freon 22 is acceptable in drinking water.

Garcelon said the only standard officials could find was a Wisconsin law that limits Freon 22 to 1,000 parts per billion, more than four times the level found in the 45-year-old Deytona system.

Freon 22 has been banned by federal law as an ozone depleter, Garcelon said.

It is, however, still in use in many air conditioners and heat pumps made before the ban.

Shallow aquifer

All the wells that showed Freon 22 pull their water from the Dungeness Valley’s shallowest aquifer.

Sequim Public Works Director Paul Haines said the city has sampled its wells as a precaution, though he noted the Freon 22 was detected far from the city’s water supply.

Haines said Thursday the city will not receive results from those samples for a few weeks.

The city was scheduled for a volatile-organic-compound test this year, he added.

The city’s wells draw from deeper aquifers than those implicated in the Freon 22 discovery.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 06. 2013 5:37PM
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