CDC: Con­cerns ne­ces­si­tate bot­tled wa­ter in Pearce Creek

Of­fi­cial: This is not Flint, Mich.



— “Ev­ery­one has heard of Flint, Mich., and its is­sues with lead. This is not that sit­u­a­tion.”

Dr. Karl Markiewicz, a tox­i­col­o­gist with the U.S. Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol’s Agency for Toxic Sub­stances and Dis­ease Registry (ATSDR), summed it up best as he tried to al­le­vi­ate



wor­ries from the dozens of Pearce Creek-area res­i­dents who at­tended a hastily sched­uled pub­lic meet­ing at Bo­hemia Manor High School on Satur­day.

Two weeks ear­lier, the ATSDR, upon re­view­ing data of res­i­den­tial wells in the com­mu­ni­ties bor­der­ing the Pearce Creek Dredge Ma­te­rial Con­tain­ment Fa­cil­ity in Ear­leville, rec­om­mended that res­i­dents switch to drink­ing and cook­ing with bot­tled wa­ter due to con­cerns about the ef­fect of high man­ganese lev­els on in­fants and young chil­dren.

Man­ganese, a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring metal found in rocks, is cur­rently a con­tam­i­nant still un­der review by the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. A sec­ondary stan­dard of 0.05 mil­ligrams per liter was set for drink­ing wa­ter for aes­thetic rea­sons, as high man­ganese lev­els can cause stain­ing as well as an odor. Mean­while, a life­time health ad­vi­sory rate of 0.3 mil­ligrams per liter and a short-term acute

stan­dard of 1 mil­ligram per liter for 10 days have also been adopted by the EPA.

“Lead has no ben­e­fit to the body what­so­ever, but man­ganese is an es­sen­tial nu­tri­ent that we need for healthy growth and de­vel­op­ment of the body,” Markiewicz told the crowd. “It’s when you have too much that you have the po­ten­tial for tox­i­c­ity.”

Markiewicz con­firmed that a grow­ing num­ber of stud­ies sug­gest that pro­longed in­ges­tion of high lev­els of man­ganese, es­pe­cially by in­fants and young chil­dren, could be neu­ro­log­i­cally dam­ag­ing in re­gards to mem­ory and mo­tor ac­tiv­ity. Those stud­ies, es­pe­cially two from Bangladesh in South­east Asia, typ­i­cally saw daily con­sump­tion of wa­ter with man­ganese lev­els of 0.5 mil­ligrams per liter or more for at least five years, Markiewicz said.

“In these stud­ies, there are of­ten other chem­i­cals in the mix,” he said, ex­plain­ing such vari­ables make it hard for sci­en­tists to draw firm con­clu­sions. “The Bangladeshi wa­ter had high lev­els of ar­senic as well as man­ganese, along with other things.”

Markiewicz noted that a pop­u­lar soy-based baby for­mula had as much as 1.2 mil­ligrams of man­ganese per liter in the early 1980s, but de­creased that level to 0.3 mil­ligrams per liter af­ter case re­ports sug­gested neu­ro­log­i­cal ef­fects. He added that no re­search links man­ganese to can­cer and that con­nec­tions to man­gan­ism, a dis­or­der sim­i­lar to Parkin­son’s dis­ease, are cur­rently ex­clu­sively to breath­ing man­ganese-laden fumes and dust, typ­i­cally found in the steel in­dus­try where the el­e­ment is an ad- Dr. Karl Markiewicz, a fed­eral tox­i­col­o­gist, dis­cusses the find­ings of a review of data col­lected from Pearce Creek-area res­i­den­tial wells in 2013.


The sit­u­a­tion here dif­fers from Flint be­cause in the Pearce Creek com­mu­ni­ties of Bay View Es­tates, West View Shores and Sunset Pointe, as well as homes along Pond Neck Road, the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of homes ei­ther have wa­ter treat­ment sys­tems or ex­clu­sively drink bot­tled wa­ter. For decades, home­own­ers have con­tended with de­graded well wa­ter as the byprod­uct of years of dredge spoil leach­ing into the aquifers that feed res­i­den­tial wells. There­fore, most do not drink raw wa­ter and treat­ment sys­tems, when ser­viced prop­erly, have been proven to ef­fec­tively re­move ex­ces­sive lev­els of man­ganese.

While those pri­vate res­i­den­tial wells are not reg­u­lated by the fed­eral government, lo­cal of­fi­cials grew con­cerned about find­ings in the Pearce Creek com­mu­ni­ties and sought help.

Fred von Staden, the health de­part­ment’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Ser­vices Di­vi­sion di­rec­tor, said his de­part­ment con­tacted the CDC in July 2014 about con­cerns in the Pearce Creek well wa­ter datasets

and sent them to the CDC a month later. While man­ganese, as a sec­ondary stan­dard, is not typ­i­cally tested for in health de­part­ment stud­ies of well wa­ter, it was in­cluded in 2013 due to the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey’s re­quest for a broader sam­pling in re­sponse to res­i­dents’ con­cerns. El­e­vated lev­els of man­ganese as found in the Peace Creek area is not what one would typ­i­cally find in Ce­cil County, von Staden said.

While the de­part­ment’s main fo­cus was on the 2013 data, county of­fi­cials sent all Pearce Creek data, in­clud­ing sets from 2011 and home­owner-re­quested tests of the 1990s, as well.

“We were look­ing for guid­ance be­cause these were so much higher than the es­tab­lished sec­ondary lev­els,” he said last week. “Now, they’re es­ti­mat­ing that over 50 per­cent of the raw wa­ter and 10 per­cent of the treated wa­ter is some­thing they would be con­cerned about.”

Health de­part­ment of­fi­cials cau­tioned home­own­ers from read­ing too much into the data, how­ever, not­ing that each test of ground­wa­ter is only a “snap­shot in time.” Ground­wa­ter found in aquifers moves, mean­ing that con­cen­tra­tions of chem­i­cals do not re­main in per­pe­tu­ity but change of­ten.

Von Staden said that his de­part­ment iden­ti­fied 25 prop­er­ties that had data sets in both 2011 and 2013: five of which had bet­ter raw wa­ter qual­ity in 2013, while seven had worse – two of which had grown from be­low sec­ondary lev­els to lev­els of con­cern for the CDC. The 10 per­cent of homes with treated wa­ter lev­els of con­cern iden­ti­fied by the CDC may also be those in need of treat­ment sys­tem ser­vic­ing, he added.

“If you ser­vice your treat­ment sys­tem, they are very ef­fec­tive in re­mov­ing chem­i­cals of con­cern,” he said.

Of­fi­cials stressed that man­ganese is only a chem­i­cal of con­cern if in­gested, and res­i­dents should not be wor­ried about skin con­tact. While there are a hand­ful of homes where of­fi­cials know res­i­dents con­sume raw well wa­ter, the new rec­om­men­da­tions do not mean that there is a need for prior con­cern.

“There are res­i­dents who con­sume raw wa­ter where man­ganese may not have even been close to a level of con­cern,” von Staden said. “When found in ex­ces­sive amounts, man­ganese causes a col­oration, smell and odor which peo­ple would not likely find palat­able.”

Markiewicz noted that the stud­ies that drew con­clu­sions of neu­ro­log­i­cal dam­age were premised on long-term ex­po­sure where man­ganese-laden wa­ter was the only source of potable wa­ter.

“Bot­tled wa­ter is be­ing im­ple­mented now be­cause there is recog­ni­tion of more con­cern,” von Staden said not­ing that the CDC’s full anal­y­sis of the data is ex­pected be re­leased later this year. “They saw enough about man­ganese to draw con­cern now. You want to be proac­tive in the pro­tec­tion of the pub­lic’s health.”

Ce­cil County Coun­cil Vice Pres­i­dent Alan McCarthy, who rep­re­sents the Pearce Creek com­mu­ni­ties at the county level, ques­tioned of­fi­cials Satur­day as to why it took 22 months for of­fi­cials to de­ter­mine that res­i­dents should switch to bot­tled wa­ter.

The coali­tion of county, state and fed­eral of­fi­cials said the vari­abil­ity of data, es­pe­cially in re­gards to the role of treat­ment sys­tems, may have led to some of that de­lay.

“When you’re re­view­ing data it does take time, but not that much time,” Markiewicz said, not­ing that if an acute dan­ger had been de­tected an ear­lier rec­om­men­da­tion may have been made. “This is an emerg­ing sci­ence.”

While of­fi­cials con­tinue to work to­ward build­ing a pub­lic wa­ter ser­vice line from Ce­cil­ton to the Pearce Creek com­mu­ni­ties, sched­uled to be com­pleted in March 2018, the Mary­land Port Au­thor­ity and later the U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers will bear the $19,000 a month cost of pro­vid­ing 1 liter of wa­ter a day for ev­ery Pearce Creek res­i­dent in the mean­time. The in­ter­a­gency part­ner­ship signed onto a ser­vice agree­ment with Eastern Shore Cof­fee & Wa­ter, of Sal­is­bury, to de­liver wa­ter to res­i­dents weekly.

Af­ter the meet­ing, sev­enyear Bay View Es­tates res­i­dent Mike Bate­man, who at­tended the meet­ing with his 2-year-old daugh­ter, Clara, said he was sat­is­fied with the an­swers pro­vided by of­fi­cials. While he lives full­time in the Pearce Creek area, his fam­ily has a wa­ter treat­ment sys­tem and their well find­ings came back with good re­sults.

“Clara has never drank our wa­ter; we’ve al­ways bought bot­tled wa­ter,” he said. “We cook with raw wa­ter and I drink it oc­ca­sion­ally, but for most drink­ing we use bot­tled wa­ter. Af­ter some ques­tions were raised prior to the first re­port com­ing out, we just felt it was in our best in­ter­est to make the switch.”

Mean­while, Wendy and Wayne Du­laney, who were the last home­own­ers to build a home in Bay View Es­tates, said they were most up­set with the fact that the is­sues with lo­cal wells were never dis­closed to them prior to buy­ing years ago.

“The prob­lems should have been dis­closed to us when we built,” Wayne said, adding a neigh­bor­ing prop­erty has now been de­nied a build­ing per­mit un­til the wa­ter is­sue is re­solved. “We’re ready to sell our home, but we’ll never get fair mar­ket value right now.”

While they have a wa­ter treat­ment sys­tem, the Du­laneys said they would be switch­ing over to bot­tled wa­ter at the CDC’s rec­om­men­da­tion.

“We’ve got to take each day for what it’s worth,” Wendy said.


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