“Should we assume our well water is contaminated?”

I’m Horrified

A heavy metal found in the groundwater under the Sand Land mine has been linked to developmental delays. Manganese was detected at 87 times the drinking water standard.

At the press conference held Friday to report the results of court-ordered groundwater test samples, a young woman in the audience stood up.

Identifying herself as the mother of two children with developmental delays, Sharon Bates said, “I’m horrified.”

She lives near Sand Land and asked, “Should we assume our well water is contaminated?”

Dr. Stuart Cohen, the expert hired to study the test results said the county health department has yet to conduct a study of public and private wells down gradient of the toxic site. Still, he said Bates should have her well tested, rather than wait for the county to act.

Bates wondered if the sampling results provide grounds for a class action lawsuit. Dr. Cohen suggested it was too soon to tell. However, he noted that he has worked with famed activist Erin Brockovich on other cases.

According to an EPA health advisory, a study of the health effects of individuals who ingested contaminated well water found health effects including lethargy, tremor, and mental disturbances.

Three people in the study died and autopsies revealed manganese levels two to three times the levels found in unexposed individuals.

Another study cited in the EPA advisory considered a 10-year old child who had been drinking water contaminated by a neighboring toxic waste dump. The child had difficulty in both visual and verbal memory, the study found.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Studies in children have suggested that extremely high levels of manganese exposure may produce undesirable effects on brain development, including changes in behavior and decreases in the ability to learn and remember. In some cases, these same manganese exposure levels have been suspected of causing severe symptoms of manganism disease (including difficulty with speech and walking). We do not know for certain that these changes were caused by manganese alone.

We do not know if these changes are temporary or permanent. We do not know whether children are more sensitive than adults to the effects of manganese, but there is some indication from experiments in laboratory animals that they may be.”

kmerrill@indyeastend.com