From the deep – arsenic in the water
Levels in some wells on New World Island 1,000 times recommended limits
For years, perhaps even generations, residents of Moreton’s Harbour suspected a silent killer lived among them.
Illness and disease are this killer’s suspected weapons, and roughly four years ago, efforts to identify the cause began in earnest. Now the suspect has a name – arsenic.
“If you asked me what I knew about arsenic three or four years ago it would have been very, very little,” Dr. Dan Hewitt told the Pilot. “And I think it’s not as well understood as it should be.”
Arsenic is a Class 1 carcinogen, which places it firmly and indisputably in the same company as tobacco as a cancercausing agent.
Hewitt was recently the subject of a feature article in Canadian Family Physician (CFP) magazine, a peer-reviewed medical journal and the official publication of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. The locum practitioner from central Newfoundland has been researching arsenic levels in the New World Island region for roughly three or four years.
Spurred by residents of the community, Hewitt’s research began after gold exploration in the area; residents claim researchers with the exploration team encouraged them to have their wells tested, and not to drink the water until they did. Armed with anecdotal evidence, they asked Hewitt to investigate.
The doctor is not alone in the search. Glennis Rideout, a licensed practical nurse who lives and works in the community, local engineer Carl Knight, and Hewitt’s predecessor Dr. John Sheldon have all played a role. Hewitt lists a litany of community members who are part of the “team.”
Residents in some communities in the New World Island area are facing a silent killer – arsenic.