Scientists: Water contaminants possibly linked to spike in city's cancer cases

Radioactive materials discovered in Fruithurst residents' well water could be linked to a spike in local cancer cases, scientists say. 

Cleburne County community members got together Tuesday night at a local elementary school to discuss scientists' alarming findings regarding one city's water supply.

Fruithurst Alabama has a population of about 280 people, and officials say within the past few years they've had eight leukemia diagnosis. According to the American Cancer Society the number of leukemia patients expected in Alabama this year is about 830.

The numbers show Fruithurst residents have a significantly higher likelihood of developing leukemia compared to Alabamians in general.

While scientists aren't 100% certain, they believe the answer lies in the city water they have tested.

Scientists discovered elevated levels of carcinogenic heavy metals and radioactive materials, which possibly formed from a natural geological process, in Fruithurt water wells.

This comes as an alarming surprise to Cleburne County resident Dawyne Barrett.

"I drink it every night and everyday before I go to bed," said Barrett.

Scientists took samples from current and previous cancer patients' home wells. Radon was detected in some of the well water, and in four cases, levels were higher than what is permitted by the EPA.

Father-of-two Richard Hutchinson says his family's well hasn't been tested and they live between the test sites. They've been drinking the water up until now.

Scientists also found DEHP at some sites, which has also been linked to cancer and is primarily used in the production of plastic.

The study says a plastic company (now closed) was located 250 feet from an artesian well. Carcinogenic material may have flowed to other local well sites underground.

"One [particular] artesian well is a renewal source point for all the ground water for miles from this area," said Fruithurst Elementary Principal Dr. Christy Hiett.

Scientists a combination of natural and man-made cancer-causing materials is to blame for the contaminated water supply.

For now, residents are advised to stop drinking the water until more evidence is collected and safe county water lines are established.

A survey is being discussed now to gather more information. If you would like to learn more about that click here.

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