The U.S. EPA is testing the air in homes and buildings in Bellaire.

This comes after they discovered elevated levels of VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds in the groundwater.

And they say those VOCs could vaporize up through the ground and into the buildings.

EPA officials say they are collecting air samples in downtown Bellaire from houses and businesses.

One of the chemicals they’re concerned with is PCE or tetrachloroethylene.

It’s a dry cleaning chemical.

A building in downtown Bellaire was once a dry cleaning business.

Later it was the United Mine Workers office but it was closed suddenly and permanently.

“The United Mine Workers District office in Bellaire was a dry cleaners at one time,” said Johnny T. Waugh of St. Clairsville. “And the EPA told them they had to leave because of the fumes coming up out of the ground, the chemicals.”

“I think some people think that’s possibly the source,” said Rich Lucas, environmental director at the Belmont County Health Department. “I’m not sure. It could be from possible accidental spills or just overuse of the chemical for the dry cleaning business. It possibly could be the source.”

They say they’re trying to find “hot spots,” places where concentrations are the highest.

The EPA says vapors come up from the ground and enter buildings.

In the coming weeks, they’ll expand their testing to more houses and businesses in Bellaire.

Residents will get packets in the mail with information and a voluntary agreement to sign, allowing the testing.

The Belmont County Health Department urges people to sign and return it.

“Go ahead and give the U.S. EPA a contact, a phone call, if you have any questions,” recommended Lucas. “And also please let them come in and do the testing.”

They say long-term exposure can have serious effects.

“With high doses, it could possibly cause cancer, liver disease and nervous system problems,” he noted.

“I think we should be very concerned about it because residents have a right to know about what’s going on in their environment,” said Frank Papini, president of the USW’s SOAR program.

The EPA says they’ll share the results with residents and county health officials.

They say PCE is stored in the body’s fat.

Its  presence in the body can be detected with a device similar to a breathalyzer.

They say it’s relatively simple, but not available at most doctor’s offices.

They say some private laboratories have the test.