ROGERSVILLE, Mo.-- Researchers are looking for the source of the contaminant trichloroethylene, known as TCE, discovered in Rogersville area wells two years ago. Most recently, federal, state and local scientists are going so far as to pump dye into the groundwater and trace its path.
Researchers are visiting this beautiful place as part of the search for an ugly problem. "The first thing we'd probably notice is the look of our water; we've got the pristine water here," says Kevin Bright, owner of Smallin Civil War Cave.
The water in the cave is as crystal clear as ever, but it's a good place to study the water's flow. "It's kind of neat to see the EPA chasing down the problems we've got before they become a big problem," says Bright.
The cave is miles from the Rogersville area wells where TCE was first discovered, but it could still be connected. "You have a lot of sink holes in this area, and any one of those sinkholes is a potential source for contaminants to get into the ground water," says Doug Ferguson, EPA On-Scene Coordinator.
As part of the search for the TCE source, scientists are putting dye in the area's groundwater and tracking where it goes. "We know a lot about the geology of the area now," says Greene County Geologist Matt Forir.
About two weeks ago, researchers put three gallons of bright green dye into the throat of sinkhole just outside Rogersville, and they've been waiting for it to work it's way into the ground water system and into the packets that detect the dye. "This is activated charcoal in the screen packet. This soaks up the water, soaks up the dye, and we take this back to the lab after it sits here and week and we analyze it to see if the dye has reached this point," says Forir.
As they get a better idea of the underground channels, experts will be able to better respond to problems like TCE contamination. "Unfortunately it's a very complex system and there really aren't any easy answers," says Ferguson.
More information will also help them better protect the life that relies on the water, like the bristly cave crayfish and blind cave salamanders of Smallin Civil War Cave. "All these animals are very dependent on the water, and the water quality; if we've got a low water quality, we don't see those animals," says Bright.