Researchers discuss water safety, test results in Iredell County

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — Researchers discussed their findings on Thursday after testing the water of more than 700 residents in Iredell County.

The researchers from Virginia Tech and UNC Chapel Hill began testing well water in February.

Many neighbors told Channel 9 they were concerned about their health because of coal ash that is buried beneath Mooresville.

[PAST COVERAGE: Researchers test samples in Iredell County to ensure drinking water is safe]

Concerns over thyroid cancer have plagued the area for years with many still asked how or if there's a connection to coal ash. The area has one of the largest concentrations in the state.

"The thyroid cancer, and cancer in general. I never drink the tap water," resident Barbara Best said.

Instead, leaders said tests were only the first step.

Researchers from Virginia Tech stepped in to provide free testing for residents who use a private well, which isn't regulated. Then, they compared what they found to the recommended standard. 

Officials said almost 80 percent of those samples exceeded the standard for the metal called Chrome VI and almost 86 percent for Vanadium.

But, experts said compare that to levels found in public water supply, it is not abnormal. 

[ALSO READ: Water to be tested for coal ash]

Officials said what they can't say, is how or if it connects to coal ash or thyroid cancer. 

"It is premature to say that coal ash causes cancer, or that coal ash is the problem in our area," Iredell and Yadkin County Senator Vickie Sawyer said. "Please don't think tonight, just because there's not that answer, that we've given up."

There is another meeting scheduled for May 9, which is when they plan to dive further into what the results show, concerns over coal ash, and thyroid cancer. 

“Please be reminded that there is already a large body of evidence that demonstrates coal ash is not impacting wells in the area,” a Duke Energy spokesperson told Channel 9.

Duke Energy provided Channel 9 with the following information: 

  • Elements such as iron, manganese, vanadium and hexavalent chromium are common in North Carolina wells and typically are caused by the rocks and soil in the area.
  • For example, we know from previous well testing statewide that about 58 percent of North Carolina wells do not meet state groundwater standards for iron, and about 40 percent do not meet state standards for manganese; Duke University determined hexavalent chromium was not from coal ash. So the findings here are consistent with what you’d find elsewhere.
  • That is why state and local health officials encourage annual testing of all private drinking wells for constituents that have nothing to do with coal ash. We are glad local officials are also encouraging people to better understand what’s in their well water.

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