Residents near Duke coal ash dumps told not to drink well water

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SALISBURY, N.C. -- Deborah Graham is one of the 20 Salisbury residents who received the warning.

"I received a letter Saturday from the state of North Carolina saying that my water was not safe to drink," she explained. "I'm just nervous and scared. You know, you use your water every day! You wash vegetables with it from the garden, you drink with it, you cook with it."

Her letter specifically mentioned the metals vanadium and iron.

"Apparently the iron in my well that was tested is almost three times what the state says is allowable."

In addition, the cost and inconvenience of living off bottled water is already frustrating.

"I’m handicapped so it’s hard for me to lug water in and out of my house. As you can see, I can’t get it from my neighbors so I have to go down the road, put it in my car, haul it back here."

Graham has retained local attorneys to help her determine the next step.

DENR reported 117 letters with results were mailed out, and 87 of them included levels that exceeded state standards.

Many did not exceed federal standards for safe drinking water, however, the agency said.

Duke Energy released a statement saying the metals referenced in the well water test results are not singularly connected to coal ash. The company said the metals could be naturally occurring in soils or rocks, and that at this point there's no proof any contamination is directly related to their coal ash facilities.

DENR officials said the source of the high levels of metals is still under investigation. It said if Duke Energy is responsible, the company will be required to provide alternative water options to the people affected.

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