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Tiny amounts of contamination found in a new test well at Love Canal "are absolutely no health threat," the state's director of hazardous waste remediation said Monday.

The director, Michael J. O'Toole Jr., said the well would be cleaned and tested again in the spring to see whether it still is contaminated.

O'Toole said the new well may have been contaminated during its construction or it may have been dug inadvertently in a contaminated area of Love Canal instead of in a clean area. He said the contamination was measured in low parts per billion. One part per billion is the equivalent of one minute of time out of 1,900 years.

"We think the contamination is attributable to the construction of the well," O'Toole said in his Albany office. "It may be a chemical that was used in cleaning the well. Or we may have inadvertently put the well in a contaminated area instead of a clean area; we may have to relocate the well. We will purge the well and test it in the warmer weather."

O'Toole said the small amount of contamination was found in one of 50 wells that had been dug to monitor the clean area around the Love Canal remediation site. The monitoring wells are designed to show whether any chemicals are seeping into the clean area. The other 49 wells are clean, O'Toole said.

The 50th well was newly dug to replace an earlier well that was displaced by the recent cleanup of nearby Black and Bergholtz creeks, according to the remediation director.

O'Toole said the contamination was noted in a routine report distributed at last Wednesday's meeting of the Love Canal Technical Review Committee in Niagara Falls.

Environmental officials are completing a decade-long program to restore the Love Canal area for residential and commercial use. The area was evacuated about 11 years ago after waste industrial chemicals seeped out of the abandoned canal bed and into the ground around neighboring homes.

State Health Commissioner David Axelrod has found areas to the north and west of the canal to be suitable for rehabitation, and the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency hopes to begin moving new owners into some of the houses in those areas this spring.

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