From the deep – ar­senic in the wa­ter

Lev­els in some wells on New World Is­land 1,000 times rec­om­mended lim­its

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - EDITORIAL - BY PA­TRICK MUR­PHY

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.”

TELE­GRAM FILE PHOTO

Res­i­dents in some com­mu­ni­ties in the New World Is­land area are fac­ing a silent killer – ar­senic.

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