Wake Forest, N.C. — The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating several contaminated wells in a Wake Forest neighborhood, from which residents say they've been drinking the water for years.
Well water at about 20 homes off Stony Hill Road tested positive for the carcinogen TCE – a cleaning agent used for de-greasing, EPA official Kenneth Rhame said Wednesday. About a dozen homes have TCE levels that exceed the limit set by the Safe Drinking Water Act.
At one home, EPA workers found TCE levels more than 65 times the safe drinking limit.
Homeowner Mark Stonefield said an EPA official came to his house at one point over the two-month investigation to test the well water. Three days later, the testers came back.
"They showed up with bottles of water and said, 'Stop drinking and stop showering,'" Stonefield said. He and his family immediately began drinking bottled water and showering at a nearby clubhouse.
"It scares me because of the kids," he said.
Rhame has been testing the wells and working with families affected by contaminated drinking water.
"(People are) very concerned. It strikes some fear in some folks, especially not knowing how long they have been exposed (and) having children who have been drinking the water," Rhame said.
He said the cancer-causing solvent is water soluble and travels underground.
"Once groundwater is contaminated, you're not going to fix it overnight," he said.
While the EPA continues its investigation into what caused the contamination, how long the water has been unsafe to drink and how the problem can be solved, Rhame and his team are passing out bottled water and installing carbon filters to those who qualify.
The agency is looking into a plan to extend water lines from a nearby community to affected homes so they won't have to use their wells.