More than 16 years after a development in Leacock Township discovered high levels of a chemical in its well water, officials say the process to provide public water to 350 residents and surrounding businesses is approaching completion.

The installation of piping to local homes and businesses in the Village of Intercourse is underway and expected to be completed in the spring of 2020, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The first homes to use public water are expected to go online later this year.

“There’s a lot of things that we (at the department) get into when it comes to water, but concerns with respect to drinking water is acute,” department Secretary Patrick McDonnell said Wednesday during a visit to the village. “We need clean water supply.”

The individual piping is part of the second and final phase of the public water project following a $5.7 million first phase for the underground distribution system. The water project is estimated to have an overall cost of $20 million, according to department spokesman John Repetz.

‘A long time coming’

Intercourse Water Tower McDonnell

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell speaks about Gov. Tom Wolf's infrastructure plan known as "Restore Pennsylvania" during a visit in Intercourse, Leacock Township, on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.

The public water system, McDonnell said Wednesday, “has been a long time coming.” Tests performed in 2003 at a housing development in the village showed higher amounts of trichloroethylene, a chemical commonly used as an industrial degreaser. The elevated levels of the chemical were confirmed by DEP and further testing found contamination was more widespread in the village.

To date, DEP officials have not determined the source of the contamination.

Officials have said the water is safe to use for bathing, but some residents still rely on weekly deliveries of state-paid bottled water to drink and cook.

McDonnell was in Intercourse Wednesday in front of a water tower under construction near Pequea Valley Public Library. He said projects like the one in Intercourse would be assisted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s infrastructure plan.

Wolf’s plan, called “Restore Pennsylvania,” includes investing $4.5 billion over the next four years on projects including water, high-speed broadband, roads, and blighted structures.

The water system will be controlled by the department for one year before it is handed off to the Leacock Township Municipal Authority.