The Herald-Journal, 25 luglio
Families in uranium zone urged to take precautions
The Associated Press

SIMPSONVILLE -- A map of blue and green circles and triangles was the center of attention as state health officials answered questions about uranium found in wells here.

Most people sighed with relief as they learned their homes were at least a country block or two away from the green symbols marking wells with concentrations of uranium anywhere from twice to 750 times the highest recommended amount for safe drinking water.

Residents whose wells tested positive for uranium pointed to their houses on the map. ''Yep. That's us,'' Carol Gilley said pointing to a green circle.

Gilley has lived in the area for 15 years. She found out in April her well has four to six times the maximum recommended amount of uranium.

She has started using bottled water, but she wonders what effect the radioactive metal could have on her family.

''We cooked in it, bathed in it, drank it,'' Gilley said. She was trying to find some answers Tuesday at a public information session sponsored by state health regulators.

The uranium is from a natural source, not from industry pollutants, said Thom Berry, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Geologists don't know exactly why uranium has contaminated dozens of wells in a 2-mile area south and west of Simpsonville, a growing suburb on Greenville's south side.

DHEC has agreed to test public wells in mobile home parks, subdivisions and industries in 10 counties in the northern part of the state, Berry said.

The agency is providing uranium and radon testing kits to anyone in the state with a private well. The kits can be picked up at DHEC district offices and cost $25 to test for uranium and $75 to test for radon.

The meeting also tried to alleviate health concerns about exposure to uranium. Ninety-four of the 105 people with uranium-tainted water also had high levels of uranium in their bodies, DHEC said.

The long-term health effects are unknown, but prolonged exposure to the radioactive metal can cause kidney problems or cancer.

The area has not seen any increase in uranium-related health problems, said Dr. Stephanie Brundage.

who is the public health director for Greenville and Pickens counties. But she said if her well had high uranium levels, she would start using bottled water until she could be hooked up to city water.

''This is something people should be prudent about and avoid,'' Brundage said.

The federal government has promised $2 million to build municipal water lines to the affected areas, and the state may chip in as much as $1 million. The Greenville Water System is considering waiving or reducing the $1,200 hookup fee, said Frank Eskridge, manager of engineering and operations.

Another solution being explored is filtration systems either at the sink or at the main water line running into the house, Berry said. Both systems have been 99 percent effective so far, but longer-term studies are needed.

For now, residents are dealing with worries that recent exposure could mean health problems as well as falling property values as few buyers are attracted to the area.

Two houses near Gilley's home have been up for sale for six months and no one has stopped to look, Gilley said.

''I think we are finally getting the answers we deserve,'' she said. ''I'm glad they have finally stopped just testing and are actually working to help us.''