North Carolina residents warned not to drink well water

WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Posted: May 05, 2015 6:16 PM EST Updated: May 05, 2015 11:15 PM EST By WBTV Web Staff

Just weeks after the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources warned 87 well owners their water was unsafe to drink, the agency has now notified more owners of the same fate. All of the well owners are within 1000 feet of Duke Energy owned coal ash dumps.

Now, the state agency says 123 well owners fall into the category of having toxic drinking water. In a release provided Tuesday afternoon, DENR said 152 of the 163 wells tested so far had water that exceeded state safe water standards. One resident on South Point Road in Belmont told WBTV, he got a call from a state toxicoligist on Friday warning him, his drinking water had unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium.

“It’s frustrating to say the least,” said Granvil Holt. Holt has been using bottled water since getting the notification.

The state required wells tested within 1000 feet of all 32 coal ash ponds in the state. The results of the first round of testing aren’t all finished. A spokesman with DENR says more well testing results will be back within the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, a Duke Energy Spokeswoman says the toxic water could be from naturally occurring substances, “There are a lot of naturally occurring substances that we find in the soil and that’s a lot of what is showing up in these private wells that are near our facilities,” said Paige Sheehan. Sheehan said Duke Energy is working with well owners to answer questions and provide bottled water.

The following is a release from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources:

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources today posted to its website the first batch of individual results from testing conducted at public and private water supply wells near the state’s coal ash ponds.

As many of you know, we have discussed these test results collectively in recent weeks. The information we’re alerting you about today includes the individual results.

The test results are being used to inform well owners about the quality of the water they are using and help state officials produce a risk-based schedule that prioritizes the closure of all 32 ash ponds, as called for in the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014.

During the first round, testing is being conducted for people who use private water supply wells and public drinking water supply wells within 1,000 feet of a coal ash storage pond. Subsequent testing will be conducted farther away from the coal ash ponds, as necessary. Well owners are able to choose from a selection of state-certified laboratories to sample water from their wells. Well testing conducted under the Coal Ash Management Act will be paid for by Duke Energy.

As outlined in the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, DENR required that wells be tested for heavy metals and other constituents typically found in coal ash, the waste produced when coal is burned to create electricity.

Many constituents that were tested in the public and private drinking water wells may be naturally occurring or unrelated to coal ash ponds. Groundwater samples from supply wells are being collected and tested for constituents associated with coal ash, including: aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, boron, cadmium, calcium, cobalt, total chromium, hexavalent chromium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, mercury, nickel, potassium, selenium, sodium, strontium, thallium, vanadium, zinc, chloride, sulfate, pH, alkalinity, bicarbonate, carbonate, and total dissolved solids.

DENR is sending by certified mail the test results to those who had their wells tested. The test results also include health risk evaluations conducted by the N.C. Department of Health of Human Services, and, as necessary, an explanation of potential well treatment options to remove or reduce contaminants from well water.

DENR has placed the test results on a spreadsheet on its website at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=24814087&name=DLFE-112973.pdf. The spreadsheet captures the addresses for the wells tested, the nearby coal-fired power plants associated with each well, and the results of tests for the metals and other constituents listed above. Also, we have created a diagram to better explain the spreadsheet that contains the well test results. The diagram is on DENR’s website at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=24814087&name=DLFE-112967.pdf.

Sample results are being compared to the different thresholds used to determine quality of the water in North Carolina. On the top three columns, you will see the state groundwater standard noted as 15A NCAC 02L.0202. This is the state 2L groundwater standard used for public and private wells. Below the 2L groundwater standard is the federal MCL standard used to regulate public drinking water supplies such as those you would find in cities and towns in North Carolina. For other constituents, there is no federal or state standard. In those specific cases, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services developed health screening levels and measured the health of the water against the level of those specific metals or other constituents. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services then conducted a health risk evaluation using results to determine if the water is safe for drinking, bathing and other uses.

DENR has included on its website a few resources to help better understand the well testing and the results.

• Diagram to explain the spreadsheet with the well test results:

http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=24814087&name=DLFE-112967.pdf

• Summaries of well testing/health risk evaluations: http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=24814087&name=DLFE-112964.pdf.

• Well Testing FAQ: http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?p_l_id=1169848&folderId=24814087&name=DLFE-112740.pdf

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