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Arsenic concerns draw investigation

Special to SEGAZINE

The Southeast Health District responded to fears of high arsenic levels in area water this month and said that the state health department should release results of water tests within the next week.

Public relations director Roger Naylor said in an e-mail that both state and local public health departments are aware of the concerns that were mentioned on Facebook and in numerous e-mails circulating on the internet about higher than normal arsenic levels in drinking waters in the southern portion of the state.

However Naylor also said that much of the information is incorrect.

Naylor said arsenic concerns have been primarily focused in the southwestern corner of the state rather than the southeast and that the department hopes to have an investigation completed in the next week.

Naylor also said that arsenic occurs naturally in the lower part of the state and traces of it show up in tests, however there has not been an indication of rates being above normal levels in Pierce or Ware counties.  The e-mail didn’t mention Brantley specifically but said that there is no known threat in the southeastern part of the state.

The e-mail was in response to a groundswell of concern on social media in the area with some even linking arsenic levels with what many are calling a high instance of childhood cancer.

Much of the concern sparked from a Ocilla woman, Janet McMahan, who claimed that cancer had spread in her household and even in her pets.  The onslaught of cases brought McMahan to investigate issues with arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater as a possible cause.

McMahan also recently posted a photo of dirty tap water that was collected in a “community between Waycross and Brunswick” and suggests that as many as six current cancer cases involving children in the area could be part of a “cancer cluster” brought on by arsenic levels.

Though the community was not named, the photo spread quickly among Brantley residents who were already aware of numerous cancer cases in the area.

Meanwhile, another photo circulating on the web claims to be that of a letter from Jane Perry, the director of the Environmental Health Branch of the Chemical Hazards Program in the Georgia Department of Human Resources.  The letter to McMahan, dated Oct. 26 2012, claims that drought concentrates arsenic levels in the area and that rates of certain arsenic-associated cancers are “statistically significant” in some counties.

A map also provided does appear to show elevated levels of various chemicals near the “Gulf Trough” on the west and central part of the state but also one more in neighboring Camden.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency held a meeting to announce plans to clean Burnett Creek in Glynn County last summer.  According to the Glynn Environmental Coalition, the area was coated with creosote several times as a result of the Brunswick Wood Preserving Superfund Site which was closed in the 1990s.  As a result, numerous chemicals entered the creek in the 1980s including arsenic and spills further released chemicals into groundwater.

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One Response to Arsenic concerns draw investigation

  1. Janet McMahan Reply

    March 15, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for helping me “Alarm the Public” about the need to collect 16 ounces of Water Heater Water from tap at bottom of Water Heater and take to County Extension Agent. Ask him to mark sample “Water Heater Water” and test sample for Arsenic Down to Zero; Lead; Uranium; Cobalt; W-1; W-3; Barium; Cadmium; Chromium; Nitrates; Phosphates; Sulfates. Please ask for Brown Bottle from Ext Agent so you may also test tap water for Benzene; PCPs; etc. The reason you need to test Water Heater Water is that I and others have tested our tap water the “old way” and received negligible results. A Cumming, GA Extension Agent said to test Water Heater Water when my friend’s tap water was “Negligible” for Arsenic. She and her husband had very high levels of Arsenic in their blood. Sure enough, they had high levels of Arsenic in water heaters on all 3 levels of their home. Ask Jake Mowrer at the Lab where the water is sent about the reasoning behind testing water heater water. If Nitric Acid is not left in the water for 5 days, Arsenic and Lead will not release from the tiny bits of sediment in the water and you will receive a False “negligible” result for Arsenic & Lead. Jake Mowrer can also explain to you about the Cattle Dipping Pits that were all over Georgia from 1906 to 1962 that released Lead & Arsenic into the ground.. Any more questions, my cell is 229-425-0310.. I will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.. please answer one for me.. Why isn’t the Southeast Health Dept telling everyone to Test Their Water? According to Ms Jane Perry’s email that they are referring to, Ms Perry wants EVERYONE to test their water.

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