NORWOOD — Contractors for the EPA have been out in the community this week taking additional soil and water samples of the former Norwood Landfill as they try to determine whether contamination from the site, which was active in the 1950s and early '60s, could be the cause of an outbreak of cancer in the nearby Winona Homes development.

“It is a follow up to the previous investigation that was done out here, we’re doing non-residential sampling this week,” said EPA Site Assistant Manager Joe Vitello as he worked with a crew from the environmental and geotechnical drilling firm, East Coast Drilling Inc. on the location of the former landfill behind Norwood Park. “We’re doing samples where we believe the old Norwood town dump was and also samples down along Darby creek where the original complaints came from.”

Prior investigations have not shown a threat or a link to the landfill and cancer complaints; however, this weeks’ testing is part of a further investigation to see if there is an ongoing release of chemicals.

Vitello said crews are performing soil samples, ground water samples, sediment samples and surface water samples along Munkinipates Creek. They will be doing residential samplings from peoples properties later in the fall.

Goals of the testing are to determine if any contaminants from the landfill site pose a risk to human health and the environment in the community, and if any longer-term investigation or immediate action is needed to address contaminants.

The Norwood site consisted of two parts: A 10-acre dump, active in the '50s and a 15-acre landfill that was active for a few years in the early '60.

The samples go to a depth of at least 20 feet. However, Vitello said there are areas where bedrock rock limits the capability of equipment to go that deep. They have been performing the testing throughout the week. The core samples every 5 feet. Crews also take observations as well as surface samples.

“We took a boring out in the middle of the ball field and I think we got down to 17 feet. There is a lot of schist at that depth, and the geo-probe can’t penetrate it,” he said. “What people are most concerned is what they come in contact with, so the surface is really key.”

The EPA is also installing temporary groundwater monitoring wells near the Winona Homes neighborhood. On Wednesday surveying crews were out near that neighborhood taking benchmark reading for the wells.

In September 2016, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry informed the EPA that community members near the former landfill were concerned with possible contamination and health impacts from the historic unregulated waste disposal practices in the area.

EPA began a site investigation in February 2017 through the Superfund Program after residents reported that there may be contaminated dirt underneath the homes in a portion of the Norwood residences.

At a November 2019 meeting Vitello told residents that based on initial findings, the landfill does not pose a risk to the community.

Residents have complained about higher than normal incidences of autoimmune disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, and various cancers. They also fear a collective problem as they are downstream from a Superfund site and two other old landfills, Clearview and Folcroft.

Vitello said the region has a number of landfills that were used at a time when they unregulated and could pose problems.

At the November meeting, lifelong Norwood resident Kelly Mack said she compiled a list of 78 people she knew who have died of cancer or an autoimmune disease.

“You say there is no correlation there and I just can't buy that,” she said at the November meeting, which brought out a large crowd. “Something here is causing us to be sick. Don't you think 78 people is a large number?”

Vitello said the EPA has an extensive website that outlines its findings on the Norwood Landfill and plans. It is viewable at  https://www.epa.gov/norwood.

If you have been contacted by EPA about having your soil sampled, you will receive an email or phone update once the sampling dates have been confirmed. If you live in the Winona Homes neighborhood and are interested in having your soil sampled, but have not yet completed an access agreement, please contact Gina N. Soscia at 215-814-5538 or soscia.gina@epa.gov.

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