Athol Residents Say Well Water Has Dangerous Arsenic Levels

ATHOL, IDAHO - What would you do if you found out the water you're drinking contained nine times the standard limit of arsenic? A neighborhood in Athol, Idaho is struggling to answer that question as they fight for clean well water.

?It scares people, and it should,? Billy Campbell said.

Campbell and his wife have lived in their Athol home since 1995 and up until two years ago had no problem with their water system, which comes from a well down the road from them near a feed lot.

They first got an inkling that something was wrong when state mandated tests began to show higher levels of arsenic two years ago. In September of 2010, a meeting was held to discuss the latest findings ? that the well water contained arsenic at the level of .062. The standard limit is .010.

?They told us within thirty days something had to be done or the well would be shut down, that was last September 17th, and we haven't heard any more,? Campbell said.

The owners of the well, Lynnwood Water Association, again tested the water in June of this year and found the arsenic level had risen again; now it was at .091.

The Coeur d'Alene based water association alerted neighbors with a flier and called a meeting. Neighbors say at that meeting they said something would be done within a month, but have yet to see that action.

What's more, Campbell says another well just feet from their well tested clean for arsenic. They don't know where the arsenic in their well is coming from, including if it's man-made or naturally occurring.

It's not just Campbell that is fed up. A family down the road from Campbell didn't want to be identified, but say they're concerned for the health of their two young daughters who have grown up on the water.

?I'd like to think that they have a legal responsibility to keep our health, keep that up to code but here we are almost a year later,? she said.

Her family was granted temporarily relief in the form of a high-tech water filter for their kitchen sink. However, the filter has a broken indicator light which doesn't allow them to see when and if the water filter needs to be changed.

Tests of that water have shown it does cut back on the arsenic. But, the mom says, having just one filter creates a problem for the family of four, who depend on that one sink for all the water they need. She says they all have to gather around the kitchen sink every night just to brush their teeth.

Campbell has opted to buy bottled water and a filtered water dispenser at his own expense. He says his wife has health issues and she can't risk drinking the arsenic-tainted water. They can't prove that her recent health issues are due to consuming arsenic, but they often wonder.

?I guarantee you that if I took some of this water down and told their families to drink it they wouldn't drink it,?Campbell said referring to the state agencies and well owners.

KXLY made calls to the Lynnwood Water Association, which is based out of Coeur d'Alene. The calls were not immediately returned. Calls were also made to the Panhandle Health District and The Department of Environmental Quality.

Meantime, Campbell and the rest of the 18 families that use the well water are stuck. They can't drink or use the water and they can't sell their homes to get away.

?It's been an ongoing thing and we've tried to reason with them and work with them on the problem, and they just seem to ignore us because they're not having to drink the water, we are,? Campbell said.

The issue with arsenic in the water only affects the one well that these 18 families use, and according to the City of Athol in no way affects the city water system.