Local News

Cumberland County Wells Contaminated

Posted August 23, 2001 4:34 a.m. EDT

— The state thinks an old chicken farm on Berry Tree Lane may be to blame for problems with the water.

When David Rice takes a drink of water, it is not from his faucet, but from a bottle. A recent letter he received from the state told him his water is not safe to drink or cook with.

"I'm angry. I bought a piece of property, spent a good amount of money for it and I can't drink the water," said Rice.

Six of the nine homes on Berry Tree Lane in Eastern Cumberland County have well water containing nitrate levels above the drinking water standard. Nitrates are found in fertilizer and human and animal waste. High amounts can cause health problems.

Many residents here were told that they bought property that was once a tobacco field, but what they did not know is it was later a chicken farm. Because there is no state law requiring private wells be tested for nitrates, for more than a year homeowners had no idea there was a problem.

Since the chicken farm shut down, the land has switched ownership at least twice. The State Division of Water Quality is trying to figure out who is responsible.

"Part of that response will be to mitigate the exposure hazards and try to put some resolution on what to do for drinking water in the future." said Art Barnardt of the division.

One solution may be to dig deeper wells.

But the Hunter family says they cannot afford that. The family of seven does not even have money for bottled water, and despite the warnings, are still using water from their well.

"We live week to week, any additional expenses are devastating so to speak," said homeowner Ron Hunter.

The most recent developer of this subdivision, Rufus Johnson says he is working to fix the problem and to check back with him in a few weeks.