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RALEIGH – Some 19,000 eastern Wake County residents will be getting official notices in the mail this week asking them to consider testing their well water for potential contamination.
The notices are part of a larger campaign to educate the public about unsafe levels of uranium, radon and radium that have been found in privately-owned well water in the eastern half of the county.
The potential contamination concerns a swath of land from Wake Forest, Rolesville, downtown Raleigh, eastern Raleigh and Garner, as well as everything east of that, including Zebulon, Wendell and Knightdale. A portion of Fuquay-Varina also may have unsafe well water.
The contamination does not impact municipal water, which is treated for these elements and regularly tested.
According to county officials, uranium, radon and radium are naturally occurring in the underground rock. The elements may cause significant health problems, including an increase risk of certain cancers in the long-term, the county warned in a press release.
The notices are asking private well owners to consider testing their water to see if it needs treating. Well owners are responsible for testing their own water and making sure it is safe to drink.
"We're giving residents the information and tools they need to make smart decisions about the safety of their well water," said Groundwater Protection and Wells Manager Evan Kane. "Just because your well water doesn't look, smell or taste funny, that doesn't mean it's safe to drink."
The county says one in five wells in eastern Wake may be affected by the contamination.
Citizens can type their address into an interactive map at wakegov.com/wells to see if they live in the contaminated area.
Only well water users may be impacted; anyone who pays a water bill shouldn't be concerned.
Drinking water contaminated with uranium can cause kidney toxicity in the short term, according to county officials. Drinking water with high levels of uranium or radium can also increase the risk of certain cancers in the long-term, as can bathing in water with high levels of radon.
Those most at-risk are infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with autoimmune disorders or compromised immune systems, including those undergoing chemotherapy.
Anyone concerned about possible exposure to these elements is asked to talk with a medical provider.
Testing well water
Officials urge regular water testing because the results of old tests may not show the levels of chemicals and contaminants in water today.
The county is providing a list of certified laboratories that test for uranium, radium and radon in the information it is mailing this week. The list can also be found at wakegov.com/wells.
Additional labs can be researched at bit.ly/nc-labs.
Households that make 2 1/2 times the poverty level or less may apply for reduced cost testing with the county.
The county will charge $73 for qualified households below the poverty level and $182.50 for households up to 2 1/2 times the poverty level.
For more information on applying, visit wakegov.com.
In addition to the online resources, the county has established at 24-hour hotline available in English and Spanish. Residents can call 919-893-9335 for more information about the well contamination.
Three community forums have been scheduled this week for the public to learn more about the program. Each will be held from 6-8 p.m. in a different part of the county.
Additional community forums are planned but have not been announced.