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TCE vapor seeping through basement of Owensboro Historic Residences

June 27, 2020

File photo by AP Imagery

In a two-page letter sent to tenants of the Owensboro Historic Residence, residents were notified that trichloroethylene (TCE) vapor is seeping through the basement floor, though steps are being taken to remedy the situation.

The letter was sent June 16 by Kansas-based property management firm Cohen-Esrey Communities, LLC.

According to the letter, Owensboro-based holding company and manufacturer MPD Inc. discovered TCE at its own location at 316 E. Ninth Street and that the surrounding buildings could also be at risk. 

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“MPD recently advised us that it has discovered trichloroethylene (“TCE”) in groundwater beneath its building, and that prompted the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet (“Kentucky”) to require MPD to investigate and characterize the extent to which TCE and its breakdown products have impacted MPD’s property and neighboring properties, including our apartment building,” according to the letter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TCE is a nonflammable, colorless liquid used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers and spot removers. 

TCE is not thought to occur naturally in the environment, according to the CDC. However, it has been found in underground water sources and many surface waters as a result of the manufacture, use and disposal of the chemical.

The Environmental Protection Agency classified TCE as carcinogenic to humans.

Cohen-Esrey told residents in the letter that the levels of TCE found in the areas tested — which include occupied and unoccupied parts of the building — that “the threat, if any, posed by this amount of TCE is low.”

“We believe neither TCE nor its breakdown products are present in detectable levels in the first or higher floors of the building, but have arranged MPD to monitor the air near the basement stairwell to confirm that is the case,” the letter went on. “We are also having MPD monitor air in the basement lounge and the leasing office.”

MPD has agreed to install a Vapor Mitigation System by Sept. 1 to minimize how much TCE enters the building and to monitor the air in the affected areas, according to the letter.

“We recommend that you minimize your time in the basement,” the letter reads. “We will notify you when we believe this restriction is no longer necessary.”

MPD, Cohen-Esrey and a property manager at Historic Residencies either declined or did not return requests for comments.

June 27, 2020

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