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Water Quality

Adam R.'s picture

Posted October 1, 2007

News of a Wake Forest mobile home park facing penalties for water contamination provokes several responses.

The incident in question refers to a WRAL report in Raleigh, North Carolina. The NC Division of Environmental Health, upon testing well water in Ponderosa Mobile Home Court, found levels of radium that exceed acceptable levels. The report says that radium is often found near uranium deposits.  This is the ninth time that the well water in the park has been in violation in the past two years.

Needless to say, that is a problem. Some of the residents put it best -- they can't afford to drink bottled water. Some of them have been drinking the well water for years.

The park's owner, Rusty Kelly, has been compelled to put in a new emergency tap. So in the short run, some action has been taken to mitigate the problem. He may be forced to put in sewer service.

Sewers would cost approximately $1 million. Such an enforcement action might have the unintended consequence of closing the park and forcing a mass eviction upon the park's 75 residents.

Nonetheless, wouldn't a better response be to extend city water out to this park? There are 41 lots in the park, set in a relatively dense area. Tapping into a water line would end the problem.

From a simple cost-benefit framework, the issue shapes up neatly. Extending water and sewer would be an equitable action that would improve the quality of life for a number of people. At the same time, it would cost a lot of money and the city would probably not recoup the expenditures with incremental tax revenue.

Wake Forest is hardly a rural area. It might be considered "ex-urban," but its also home to some of the Triangle's most elite subdivisions.  This park is located along a major road, in fact.  You better believe that those tract mansions are not drawing radium-contaminated water from a nearby well.

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