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Pinellas Health Department tests more wells for arsenic

5:59 PM, Jul 30, 2010   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida -- Dozens of calls are coming into the Pinellas Health Department after an alert went out to homeowners in North County with private drinking water wells.

Environmental specialist Lisa Frazier says the department has received more than 70 calls so far in one day after random water samples showed high levels of arsenic.

Homeowner David Humphreys lives off Wyatt Street in Clearwater and depends on his private well 100 feet underground for his drinking water. "I drink it daily--hourly almost," says Humphreys.

The health department took a water sample from Humphreys' home. He hopes his 25-year-old water well turns up negative for arsenic.

"The maximum contaminant level is 10 micrograms per liter. The highest we found was 166 micrograms per liter," says Frazier.

The Pinellas County Health Department has tested private drinking water wells in 25 homes in Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Clearwater and 16 of those tested positive for arsenic. "Arsenic is a natural element, like rocks and soil. It can also occur in pesticides," explains Frazier.

Health officials say prolonged exposure can cause cancer. Frazier adds, "It depends on the person, depends on the amount. Some people are not affected by it."

Health Department officials say homeowners are responsible for having their private drinking water wells periodically checked. If arsenic is found, health officials say the Department of Environmental Protection will hook up the homeowner with either a filter or to a public water supply at no cost.

Health officials will test the water for free. Water samples are sent to the Health Department's lab in Jacksonville. Test results are ready in two weeks.

The Department of Health's website has more information on arsenic in the water and its health effects.

Isabel Mascarenas

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