Carcinogens not detected in Ky. public drinking water

HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - A new study conducted by the Kentucky Division of Water Safety finds no significant levels of cancer-causing heavy metals in Kentucky's public drinking water supply over a 12-year period.

The same study found no correlation between coal mining and higher occurences of cancer mortality.

The study looked at drinking water data from all of Kentucky's public water systems between 2000 and 2012.

Researchers were making sure cancer-causing metals in the water were below maximum contaminant levels or M.C.L.s, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"What we found essentially was in the case of the two carcinogens, arsenic and chromium, all of the facilities from all of the samples statewide were below the M.C.L.s," said Dr. Albert Westerman, one of the researchers on the study.

Responding to concerns that coal mining might increase local cancer mortality rates, Westerman says they also compared coal-producing regions to the rest of the Commonwealth.

"What we found there was there was no significant difference between the cancer incidents among any of the regions."

The report on water quality may be encouraging, but cancer doctors we talked to say Kentucky still ranks among the highest in the nation for several different cancer types.

"Unfortunately in Eastern Kentucky, southeastern Kentucky, the area that we serve in our center - and this based on data that we collected from our numbers - we are leading nationwide in lung and colorectal cancer," said Raymond Elsoueidi, M.D., of the ARH Cancer Center in Hazard.

Doctors caution coal dust carries its own health risks, and runoff from mining sites does occasionally enter the water supply, but Division of Water officials say they monitor that, to make sure what comes out of the tap is good to the last drop.

While researchers found water leaving public water supply systems is of high quality, they say issues like off taste or discoloration can occur for some users.

They encourage anyone with water quality concerns to contact their water provider.

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