CDC 24/7 - Saving Lives - Oregon's Success
What is the problem?
Studies from the 1970s showed elevated levels of arsenic in private wells in the Sutherlin Valley area. The arsenic found in these wells most likely comes from the bedrock and soil. Long-term exposure to arsenic through drinking water is known to cause various types of cancer, including lung, skin, bladder, kidney, nasal passage, liver, and prostate. Arsenic exposure may also affect reproductive organs, the brain and nervous system, the heart and blood vessels, and cause darkening and corns on skin. Since the state has not required water to be tested for arsenic, people living in the area for many years may have been drinking water containing amounts of arsenic that could be harmful to health. Also, new homeowners may be unaware of arsenic in their water supply. Without more current information about arsenic levels, state or local health officials cannot know the best ways to protect peoples' health.
What did Tracking do?
The Oregon Tracking Program, working with several partners, measured arsenic levels in more than 100 home wells in Sutherlin Valley. Several wells were found to have arsenic levels higher than healthy drinking water standards. People using those wells were notified. A community meeting was held to explain the results of the testing and to inform residents about ways to remove arsenic from the well water. The partners also provided fact sheets and health information resources. In addition, local newspapers published articles notifying residents of testing results and encouraging them to test their well water regularly.
Improved public health
This study influenced state legislation, passed in 2009, that added arsenic to the list of substances tested in private wells. Now, every time a piece of property with a private well is sold, the water must be tested for arsenic and other contaminants. This testing will limit exposure to arsenic and lower the possibility for health problems caused by it.