UNC Charlotte researchers to test private wells for contaminated water in Gaston County

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — There are roughly 8,000 private wells in Gaston County but there is no requirement that residents test their water.

One neighbor said he went years without knowing the water in his home was contaminated with potentially dangerous toxins.

“We found hexavalent chromium, and some heavy metals,” homeowner E.J. Smith said.

Researchers at UNC Charlotte now plan to test private wells and create a database and map to show residents the safety of wells around them.

Dr. Eric Delmelle and Dr. Douglas Shoemaker at UNC Charlotte are leading research to test private wells and create a database and map that shows residents the safety of wells around them.

“Unlike city or even surface water, those waters are not monitored by the government for safety,” Shoemaker said.

“I think there is sometimes a lack of awareness of the risk that contaminated water could have,” Delmelle said.

Sabahat Siddiq helps conduct some testing at the Gaston County Environmental Health Department. Her tests have also identified contaminants like E-coli.

“Unless we had done the sampling, the well owners would have never known,” Siddiq said.

Some residents like Smith are resistant to the testing, worried it could impact property values.

“Just because it comes out of the ground, doesn’t mean it’s safe,” Smith said.

Smith installed a $7,000 filtration system in his home, which filters to his taps. Smith urges anyone on well water to know what they are drinking.

“It’s wise to at least know what’s in there, first,” Smith said. “That helps you make decisions on what types of filters to put in.”

UNC Charlotte and Gaston County Environmental Health have about a $50,000 grant to fund testing for residential wells and the creation of the mapping system. They’ll start the work next year.

Residents on well water in Gaston County can find more information on how to participate here.

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