Tainted Wells Point to Long-Standing Pesticide Issues


In one neighborhood, residents have been drinking and bathing in tainted water for years and, now, water line options are under consideration.

The water lines were a consideration for 2015; however, the city of Hendersonville finds that it must move much quicker to resolve contaminated wells affecting 23 homes, said Blue Ridge Now. The residents must limit their shower time and have been told not to drink their tap water.

Testing is in progress and 23 of 57 wells tested are above state and federal standards for pesticides such as dieldrin. Four of those 23 tested above the standard for heptachlor epoxide; chlordane and endrin ketone were found to be at above-standard levels, as well, said Blue Ridge Now. The chemicals—all of which are potentially harmful to humans—are now-banned pesticides widely used on corn crops from 1950 on. The chemicals were banned in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Brett Laverty, a hydrogeologist with the Aquifer Protection Section of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said sampling efforts began last October. Officials with the Department believe that the chemicals entered the wells from soil via bedrock fractures, improper well construction, well damage, spills, or an unintentional back-siphoning of the pesticide into a well, said Blue Ridge Now.

Originally, the DENR was looking for old orchards, not cornfields, as the culprit in groundwater vulnerability to pesticides and insecticides. A number of studies and groundwater complaints led to increased testing revealing that, after over one decade, the chemicals remained. The residents are in “dire need,” Councilman Jerry Smith said at a recent Council meeting. “We need to get a line out there as quick as we can,” he added, according to Blue Ridge Now.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that dieldrin, which was banned in the United States in 1985, “does not break down easily in our environment and becomes more concentrated as it moves up the food chain to humans and other wildlife.” Time and ongoing exposure to dieldrin may decrease one’s immune system, lead to kidney damage, increase infant mortality, minimize reproductive success, and cause cancer and birth defects, said Blue Ridge Now. The EPA pointed out that, “Some people who drink water containing heptachlor epoxide well in excess of the maximum contaminant level for many years could experience liver damage and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.”

Chlordane exposure can cause gastrointestinal distress as well as neurological symptoms that include tremors, convulsions, and nervous system effects, the EPA said. “Exposure to endrin can cause various harmful effects including death and severe central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) injury,” the EPA noted. “Symptoms that may result from endrin poisoning are headache, dizziness, nervousness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and convulsions. Some of these symptoms may continue for weeks after exposure to high doses of endrin,” the agency added, wrote Blue Ridge Now, pointing out that the amount of exposure that would lead to serious health effects is still unknown.

We’ve long written about links between pesticides and long-lasting, serious health effects. For instance, many experts believe that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) could be due to environmental exposures and critics have blamed pesticides, among other factors. We also previously wrote that a new study found an association with glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, and Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s-related brain disorders. Also, over the past several years, the agricultural pesticide, paraquat, has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, posing a risk not just to agricultural workers who toil in fields where the pesticide has been sprayed, but to the people who live in the vicinity of those fields.

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