Residents in the Rockbridge subdivision near Knightdale received a surprise on their mailboxes earlier this summer when public notices were issued to inform them of excessive levels of gross alpha and uranium.
The notice, which is mandatory under state law, was the result of a first quarter test that showed the drinking water to be “way out of compliance,” said KRJ Utiltities contract manager Rod Butler.
In the notice, residents were told that although there was “no immediate risk,” radioactive minerals in the water could “emit a form of radiation known as alpha radiation” and tested more than three times the normal uranium standard in drinking water.
The notices said risks for drinking water with high uranium and alpha radiation levels could face increased risk of cancer and kidney toxicity and put infants, pregnant women and elderly residents at risk.
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Although the notice suggested that it could be due to a non-compliant well, Butler said that now, they aren’t so sure. .
Butler says a month later, they have received results from a second quarter test that have come back “beautiful,” he said, with results that more closely mirror prior tests. The company is waiting on third quarter results.
The discrepancy comes from their testing contractor – a new one as of this year – who sent the first quarter samples to a different lab than the labs that KRJ usually uses, Butler said. The second quarter tests were sent to the normal labs.
As a result, the non-compliant well’s status is uncertain. It could, in fact, be operating correctly.
Tom Bloch lives in the neighborhood and said he and his wife have been using bottled water since they received the notice dated June 17.
“If you buy bottled water it could cost $300 (a year) versus $0.78 out of tap,” Bloch said. “It’s a major financial impact. All we want is water coming out of tap that doesn’t have (high levels of) uranium.”
KRJ Utilities is owned by Robert Stafford, Jr. of Stafford Land Company in Southern Pines, the developer of the Rockbridge subdivision on Poole Road.
According to the subdivision’s records with the N.C. Division of Water Resources, KRJ has seen two other uranium level violations in two single samples in 2013, which resulted in the company switching wells.
Butler said that they are taking the situation seriously and hoping that it is a result of inaccurate testing. But, he said, the levels are calculated based on four quarterly tests, and the levels of the first test were so high that they could keep the average non-compliant for the remainder of the year.
“It’s a troubling situation for people, and I’m not trying to play it down, but I’d really like to believe it’s just a bad data point,” Butler said. “Everyone needs to take the notice seriously and use their personal judgment.”
But until the company determines the third quarter results, due back in early August, they remain unsure.