Editor’s Note: The Iredell County Health Department released the following health information.
Special to Iredell Free News
Over the past few years the Iredell County Public Health Taskforce has worked closely with the state of North Carolina, local partners and Universities to provide community awareness and address public health concerns regarding coal ash fill sites.
The Public Health Task Force consists of N.C. Sen. Vickie Sawyer; Iredell County Board of Commissioners Chairman James Mallory and Vice Chair Melissa Neader, County Manager Beth Mull, Deputy County Manager, Susan Robertson; Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins, Mooresville Town Manager Randy Hemann, Health Director Jane Hinson and Environmental Health Director, Brady Freeman.
A water study performed in February of 2019 demonstrated no link between coal ash fill sites and general water quality in almost 800 private drinking water wells in the Mooresville area. Iredell County partnered with Virginia Tech and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to offer free water samples to private drinking water wells funded by an EPA and a National Science Foundation Federal grant.
The samples were analyzed to get a better understanding of general well water quality and in effort to test for trace elements and compounds such as lead, copper, arsenic and chromium which can be found in coal ash. Well water test results were not suggestive of coal ash contamination. The link to the summary of these results can be accessed at https://www.co.iredell.nc.us/1329/Well-Water-Testing.
In December of 2019, Iredell County partnered with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory and was tasked with testing soil for traces of coal ash in five strategically selected public schools and one comparable non-disturbed area in the southern end of Iredell County.
The soil tests were performed and found that levels and distributions of radionuclides were consistent with the levels and distributions expected in natural soils associated with the granite bedrock found throughout Iredell County. The study reported that there were no anomalies or exceeding concentrations of toxic metals detected in the trace metal and radionuclide data generated from these soil samples.
Trace elements and radionuclide data were examined to evaluate the possible presence of coal ash in soil samples, and the results clearly rule out this possibility. Based on the report provided by the N.C. Policy Collaboratory, the data used to identify these sites indicate no additional school sites need to be sampled.
On July 23, 2021, Iredell County was made aware of an article that was published on June 30, 2021 by Environmental Science & Technology, authored by Vengosh et al. The publication, “Evaluation and Integration of Geochemical Indicators for Detecting Trace Levels of Coal Fly Ash in Soils,” indicates that 20 sites around the Lake Norman area were sampled to test methods for detecting trace elements, radium nuclides and lead stable isotopes commonly found in coal fly ash particles. According to the estimates from the EPA, the amount of natural radiation in fly ash and other waste from coal-fired power plants is only slightly more than what is typically found in the average U.S. soil. The metals and other coal ash associated contaminants that were detected in the study were below EPA human health-risk thresholds at the Lake Norman sites.
A subsequent meeting was attended by the Iredell County Public Health Task Force with Dr. Vengosh and Dr. Stapleton from Duke University. After discussions and examining the press release from the Duke, Nicholas School of the Environment, it was determined that the publication was not intended to examine health risks and that all trace elements, lead stable isotopes and radionuclides associated with coal ash found in the samples, were below EPA health-risk thresholds.
A copy of the Duke, Nicholas School of the Environment press release can be accessed at https://nicholas.duke.edu/news/new-tests-can-detect-tiny-toxic-particles-coal-ash-soil.