Arsenic tests high in Mountain Island Lake, but not Wylie

Elevated levels of arsenic in Mountain Island Lake

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comOctober 22, 2012 

— High concentrations of arsenic in Mountain Island Lake aren’t making their way down to Lake Wylie, experts say.

A Duke University study published last week showing Mountain Island Lake, north of Lake Wylie, exceeded drinking water and aquatic life standards for arsenic in at least one testing site. The result was attributed to coal ash effluent from coal-fired power plants. Charlotte draws its drinking water from Mountain Island Lake.

Lake Wylie, which provides drinking water for residents in York County, didn’t show the same results.

Information at catawbariverkeeper.org shows three Lake Wylie sites tested, compared to seven on Mountain Island Lake and four on Lake Norman. Arsenic levels in the water were 24 to 76 percent lower in Lake Wylie than the Mountain Island site that exceeded federal standards.

Mountain Island sites upstream and downstream of the problem area were comparable to Lake Wylie results.

Jimmy Bagley, deputy city manager for Rock Hill and member of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission, said he was aware of the study and his city is in constant contact with the state health department on water quality issues. Rock Hill withdraws water from Lake Wylie that is then distributed throughout the county.

“We constantly check those levels, and what we’ve found is levels on Lake Wylie have always been below the detection limit,” Bagley said.

Bagley said the issue is worth attention given Mountain Island Lake flows into Lake Wylie, but said dissipation and other factors mean the public shouldn’t be concerned. Higher concentrations in Mountain Island Lake in the past haven’t led to spikes on Wylie, something Bagley doesn’t see changing.

“Hopefully, that’s not the case,” he said.

Catawba Riverkeeper Rick Gaskins said residents shouldn’t worry about arsenic or similar elements in drinking water regardless of which lake it comes from along the river. They should be concerned, he said, about the cause of heavy metals in the problem test areas.

“There’s enough dilution in the lake to where people shouldn’t be concerned they can’t drink their water,” Gaskins said. “The concern is simply there ought to be more limits. Right now, there really aren’t any limits on the heavy metals.”

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