Special to the Enterprise
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.