Through a study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Indian Health Service (IHS), anyone who lives on the Red Lake Indian Reservation and gets water from a private well can have their water tested for arsenic and nitrogen.
The first of 4 scheduled Community Clinics, one in each district, took place on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at the Little Rock Community Center. Tomorrow, Thursday, April 18, one is scheduled for the Red Lake Community Center from 8 AM until 3:30 PM.
Water samples are for homes with well water. Homes that are on city water have theirs tested quarterly by Red Lake Sanatation.
To take part in this study and have your well tested, all a person has to do is register with either Christine Ostrum, Tribal Sanitarian, or Jenilynn Bohm, Red Lake DNR Water Resources Biologist. Once that is finished, they answer all your questions and explain the procedures for taking the water samples from your home.
You are given two bottles for the samples, one to test for arsenic and the other for nitrogen.
According to the New World Encyclopedia, Arsenic (chemical symbol As, atomic number 33) is a notoriously poisonous metalloid. It comes in many allotropic forms, of which the yellow, black, and gray forms are regularly seen. It is sometimes found in its elemental form in nature, but it is usually combined with metals in various minerals.
Given its high toxicity and the ease with which it could be used surreptitiously, arsenic was used in history by murderers, including members of the ruling class, to gain wealth, position, and power. It was therefore called the "king of poisons" and the "poison of kings."
Some arsenic compounds—such as arsenite and arsenate salts—have been used as agricultural pesticides and herbicides. Other compounds, particularly sulfides of arsenic, were formerly used as pigments in paints. Also, wood treated with chromated copper arsenate, known as "CCA timber," was heavily used over the past 50 years as a structural material that resists rot and insect infestation. Two drugs (Salvarsan and Neosalvarsan) that were historically successful in treating syphilis and trypanosomiasis contained arsenic.
Arsenic contamination of groundwater is a problem of concern in certain geographical locations. The World Health Organization recommends a limit of 0.01 milligrams per liter of arsenic in drinking water. Consumption of water with higher levels of arsenic over long periods of time can lead to a condition known as arsenicosis and eventual death. Researchers have devised tests for arsenic in water and ways to remove the toxic material before the water is supplied for consumption.
Nitrates are naturally occurring chemicals made of nitrogen and oxygen, according to one of their handouts. It is found in air, soil, water and plants. Nitrates are tasteless, odorless and colorless. Most of the nitrates in the environment come from decomposition of plants and animal wastes. People also add nitrate to the environment in the form of fertilizers. Failing septic systems can also seep human sewage near ground surfaces and nitrates into the groundwater.
Wells are vulnerable to nitrate contamination. The presense of nitrates can be a sign of deteriorating groundwater quality if the well is shallow or damaged. Too much nitrate in drinking water increases your risk of cancer.
A well should be sampled every two or three years for nitrates or more frequently if it was detected in previous samplings.
Once the samples are returned, the Red Lake DNR will ship the samples to EPA laboratories in Duluth for analyses. You will then receive a notification of your results within three months. If additional analyses are needed, you will be contacted. Any other questions you have will also be answered.
Recent testing of flowing wells on the Red Lake Reservation have indicated that arsenic levels are higher than the drinking water standard set by the EPA.
According to the EPA, arsenic may be related to many health concerns such as skin damage, circulatory and nervous system problems, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of cancer in the bladder, liver, lungs and other organs.
The second Well Water Testing Community Clinic is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, April 18th from 8 AM - 3:30 PM at the Red Lake Community Center. Next week, the third clinic is on Tuesday, April 23rd for Redby at New Beginnings, and Wednesday, April 24th at the Ponemah Boys and Girls Club.
The results of this study will help determine the depth and extent of Arsenic in groundwater on the Reservation.
* Contact Christine Ostrum, Tribal Sanitarian (679-3316) or Jenilynn Bohm, Water Resources Biologist (679-1605) with further questions or concerns.
Testing Schedule and Flyer, follow this link: http://www.redlakednr.org/PDF/AprilCommunityClinics.pdf