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A cancer-causing chemical isnt just in the water in northern Wakes Stony Hill community vapor tests show it could be in the air, too.
The air quality impacts, though, are minimal compared to the threat of well water laced with trichloroethylene, a chemical thats known to cause cancer, liver problems and other illnesses.
On Wednesday, the states Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced that two of 14 properties along Stony Hill Road west of Wake Forest were above levels of concern for below-ground TCE vapors as well as fumes from another chemical, perchloroethylene, known as PCE.
The findings come a few months after residents were told 21 wells are tainted with TCE. Those homes now have filtration systems, and water lines are under construction so they can close the wells.
The vapor contamination should cause less worry. At one home where tests found below-ground contamination, investigators also tested air in the crawl space, which came back clear, meaning the chemical likely isnt in the air residents breathe. The second positive vapor test came from a vacant lot, sampled because investigators didnt have permission to test an occupied property next door. Theyll conduct further tests at that home if the owner gives them the green light, DENR spokeswoman Cathy Akroyd said.
Also last week, DENR officials announced updated test results from wells in and around the Mangum Estates neighborhood two miles north. The agency doesnt think the two sites are related; Akroyd said theyre investigating a dump site as a potential culprit at Mangum Estates. In that neighborhood, theyve sampled 57 wells so far; 12 have TCE and nine of those are above the maximum federal level, five parts per billion.
Some who drank the water in the area worry the contamination could be more widespread.
For 10 years, Martin Harris lived on Stony Hill Road, exactly halfway between the original contamination site and Mangum Estates. He left in 2008, shortly after his well water became discolored with a funny taste, he said.
It just came out of the blue, Harris said. The water tasted like bottled water, then I couldnt even do laundry in it.
Around the same time, he says, he started having vomiting spells, and his doctors still havent diagnosed the cause. Its nearly impossible to know whether the health problems are related, but Harris said he just wants to know whether he was drinking a carcinogen.
The EPAs initial testing missed Harris former home because it was just outside the three-quarter-mile radius surrounding the contamination site. Not being able to get answers has been my biggest concern, he said.
Harris thinks the EPA should sample more wells in the area. They should be worried about every house in that community.
DENR and EPA officials say theyll continue to test wells, and vapor testing is possible in Mangum Estates.