Test results raise concerns about Lee County water

SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) – Residents in Lee County are concerned about their water.

In November, Lee County began testing wells in areas where coal ash would be stored to create a baseline in case there were any contamination issues. Lee and Chatham counties were previously selected to store coal ash from the Dan River coal ash spill two years ago.

When tests results came back, interim health director William Heath Cain said they were surprised to find elevated levels of chromium and/or vanadium in some of the county’s wells.

Cain said no one expected the water to already be contaminated.

As officials tested more wells in Lee County, they discovered 15 wells with elevated levels of chromium and/or vanadium. After the findings, the Lee County Board of Commissioners was notified of the issue.

Commissioners have since requested periodic updates on the situation. They have been meeting every two weeks to talk to Lee County health officials and residents to find out the latest on the water issue.

“I’ve been here 15 years I’m a cancer survivor and this has carcinogens in it so I have issues with even bathing with it,” said Joyce Hawkins, who has a contaminated well.

Another meeting is scheduled for Monday.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality was notified of the issue and is working with the county to try and figure what to do next.

Cain said DEQ is trying to assess the contamination levels and should know within the next three weeks if that water is safe to drink. He said both chromium and vanadium are naturally occurring in some parts of the state and nobody is sure at this point where the contamination in the wells came from.

“We are not sure,” where chromium and vanadium is coming from, Cain said

“DEQ is doing some testing on it, but we’re not sure is a county agency or can be coming from,” he added.

Lee County health officials say they’re anticipating the state DEQ will make some determinations about the situation in about 3 weeks.

In the meantime residents in the affected area are hoping that water lines can brought in— but if officials decide to do that, it’s going to take time

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