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Arsenic A Problem In Many N.C. Wells

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Throughout North Carolina, residents on wells are dealing with a problem in their water --arsenic -- and many aren't even aware of the danger.

Patricia Edkins goes through about 15 gallons of bottled water a week. She can't drink the water from her tap because her well is one of 445 in Orange County contaminated with dangerous levels of arsenic.

"My former neighbor called me and asked me what I was doing about the arsenic in my well ... and I said, 'What arsenic?' " said Edkins.

State toxicologist Ken Rudo says 2,807 wells in 79 counties in the state have tested positive for arsenic in the past five years. Rudo suspects there are thousands more, but there are not enough resources for widespread testing of wells.

"We know where thousands and thousands of wells are in the state that are probably contaminated with arsenic, but we don't have the money to get the samples taken. So at this time that's a big frustration," Rudo said.

Arsenic can be naturally occurring in groundwater.

"There is no safe level of arsenic in drinking water," said Rudo.

Prolonged exposure can cause cancer, skin and neurological problems.

"I started thinking about how long I'd been drinking the groundwater," said Edkins.

Edkins now even feeds her dogs bottled water because she is concerned about how it may affect their health.

"I started getting bottled water for my dogs because I lost a dog to cancer last year," said Edkins.

The water is OK for washing hands, showering and washing clothes. There are filtration systems that homeowners can buy to clean the water.

If residents are concerned about the issue they can call their county health department and request a test for a small fee.

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