Wake Forest residents fear toxic vapors from contaminated wells - WSPA.com

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Wake Forest residents fear toxic vapors from contaminated wells

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. -

Wake Forest neighbors worry a cancer-causing chemical found in their private water wells could be in the air they breathe.

"We are getting clean water in January, so I'm like, I can breathe now. I feel a little bit better about my situation," said homeowner Tammy Alexander.

Alexander's well is contaminated with TCE, but the EPA expects to begin construction in December to connect Alexander and her neighbors to clean water from a nearby community well.

Now, Alexander fears toxic vapors could be another health hazard her family may have to deal with.  

"It was last Wednesday EPA and DENR came knocking on my door saying, 'The air you're breathing in your house could possibly be contaminated.' I mean, I literally wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. That's honestly how I felt," Alexander said.

Wednesday, engineers from the EPA and North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources tested several properties in the Stonewalls neighborhood for toxic vapors. Engineers are in the process of taking samples from the air below 22 homes.

Two weeks ago, the DENR tested 14 properties for below ground vapors. Three properties tested positive for toxic vapors, one of which is an empty lot.

"This round of testing is just an abundance of caution. We want to be very conservative, very cautious and while we are out here, [test] everyone that we can. There isn't an expectation that we will find [TCE], but it is possible and we want to be very careful and very cautious," said DENR spokeswoman Cathy Akroyd.

Akroyd says TCE in the groundwater can evaporate and travel through the spaces between the soil particles.

EPA toxicologists say if high concentrations of TCE vapors get trapped inside a confined space, like a home, it can be deadly.

Engineers drilled a hole inside Alexander's basement and inserted a tube to collect the air sample.

"I'm hoping and praying that if this is clean, we can breathe a little bit better and I think we will be fine in the long run, but I just don't know that yet," Alexander said.

The vapor samples taken on Wednesday will be sent to a state and federally certified lab in Tennessee. Test results are expected in early December.

In 2002, TCE was dumped from a building on Stony Hill Road. DENR was alerted about the contamination in 2005; and nearly seven years later, in June 2012, the EPA confirmed TCE had spread to the private water wells of 21 families.

TCE can cause cancer, coma and even death.

 

Charlotte Huffman

An award-winning journalist with an investigative edge, Charlotte has driven legislative change with reports on workplace safety concerns and contaminated groundwater. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

Poison in the Water

There are at least 2,000 sites statewide where DENR knows there is TCE contamination that is likely spreading into the water of unsuspecting families. More>>

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