RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With concerns about potential health impacts, Wake County will send notices later this month to thousands of owners of private wells urging them to get testing done for various contaminants.
Evan Kane, manager of groundwater protection and wells for the county’s department of environmental services, says there are about 20,000 wells in the “vulnerable area.”
“We’ve found that uranium and some related elements are the most common chemical contaminants in Wake County water,” he said. “We’re trying to increase awareness among well users about the prevalence of these contaminants.”
Kane updated county commissioners Monday on efforts to contact well owners and testing the county has done already on well water.
He said about 4,000 wells “may exceed the standard for uranium.” He also said about 6,000 “may exceed the guidance level for radon.”
“The rock in eastern Wake County is naturally enriched in uranium, and that uranium and its breakdown products can leach into the groundwater,” he said. “Very few people have actually gotten their well water tested to determine whether they have these contaminants in their water.”
He said prolonged exposure to “these elements carries an increased risk of certain types of cancers, and with uranium, in particular, carries the risk of kidney toxicity,” he said. “While finding a problem with your well water can be scary, nearly all the problems you could encounter are fixable in some way.”
Municipal water systems and private utilities already test and treat for these contaminants, he said, adding that about 850,000 residents in Wake County are served by public water suppliers.
Beginning March 1, Wake County required testing for radionuclide in new wells.
Bill Haddad, who lives in eastern Wake, said he’s tested his water since moving to the area seven years ago. However, he hasn’t had it tested for contaminants such as uranium and radon.
“It’s your drinking water. You need to know what’s in it. If there’s an issue coming up that people are learning about, that information needs to get out to folks,” he said.
Owners of wells are responsible for their testing and maintenance. Depending on the results, it could cost thousands of dollars to address any issues. Some of Haddad’s neighbors told CBS17 they’ve already had testing done and discovered elevated levels of radon.
“Substantial costs in equipment is certainly a lot better than the health risks you could suffer. Nothing’s more expensive than medical costs, and nothing is more precious than your health, especially that of your family,” said Haddad.
The county is offering to test at a reduced price for lower-income residents. You can find the details about that here. Other residents will have to work with private companies to get the testing done. The county cannot mandate that well owners do that.
The county also launched a hotline Monday that you can call. The number is 919-893-WELL. In addition, the county plans to mail this information directly to about 15,000 households at the end of June.
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