Half of neighborhood’s wells show high levels of pesticides

Officials say they doubt anyone will suffer severe symptoms

abaird@newsobserver.comJanuary 19, 2013 


  • Need to test water? Anyone interested in having their well water tested can find information online at http://bit.ly/SXm4Ly or by contacting Wake County Environmental Services at 919-250-4441.

— Water from 16 of 30 wells in an East Raleigh neighborhood contains excessive levels of pesticides, recent tests show.

Federal, state and local agencies tested water from 30 homes near Bond Street and Trawick Road after a homeowner voiced concerns to Wake County Environmental Services in December that the water was contaminated. Sixteen wells shows high levels of dieldrin and chlordane – two types of pesticides commonly used until the 1980s to control termites around building foundations and to keep insects away from farms and gardens.

Bob and Mai Hodges, who have lived in the neighborhood for 31 years, said their well was found to be clean. But a neighbor who lives one house over was not as fortunate. That well was contaminated badly enough that the state tapped into emergency funds to temporarily supply bottled water and to install filters at the house. Similar steps were taken at one other house, and at least four others have requested help from the state.

“We’re fortunate, but we feel terrible for everyone who wasn’t,” Mai Hodges said. “But maybe four or five years from now, we’ll have the same problem. You never know.”

Cause, effects unclear

No source for the contamination has been identified, but an investigation is ongoing. A nearby plant nursery was ruled out after the Environmental Protection Agency took water samples from a dozen wells used by the nursery.

Susan Massengale, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said another property near the neighborhood was previously used for agricultural purposes.

“We’re going to keep investigating, but the land being used for agriculture is one of the possibilities we’re looking at closely,” Massengale said.

Wherever the pollutants are coming from, Dr. Ricky Langley, a public health physician for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said it appears unlikely that anyone in the neighborhood will suffer severe symptoms.

Exposure to a significant amount of chlordane or dieldrin can prompt an array of harsh side effects and may cause death. But only people who work at chemical manufacturing plants could possibly get that high of a dose.

“It’s not likely anyone in this case will have any acute health effects, but of course you want to be cautious,” Langley said.

Fixing the problem

The Hodges said they are considering a switch to the city water system to err on the side of caution. But they are concerned by the cost associated with getting hooked up, which they said could run them more than $20,000.

Massengale said that the Bernard Allen Memorial Fund – the state fund being used to provide bottled water and filters for two houses in the neighborhood – could also be used to help other residents and maybe even to aid them in transitioning away from a well to city water. That depends on the type and extent of contamination and on the income level of the homeowner.

“The state doesn’t have the legal ability to tell a city they have to hook certain people up,” Massengale said. “The state administers the memorial fund, but a lot needs to be worked out between the city, county and residents.”

In the past year, known carcinogens have been found in well water elsewhere in northern Wake County. TCE, a chemical agent used for de-greasing, has been found at several locations in Wake Forest and closer to the beltline.

Baird: 919-829-4696

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