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Public Health Advisory - 23 April 2013

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State Public Health Officials to Hold Information Session

Contamination in Old Fort Finishing Company Wells May Have Posed Health Risk to Community

RALEIGH - The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will be holding an information session at the Old Fort First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall located at 203 E. Main Street on Thursday, April 25, from 3 to 7 p.m. to present the results of a public health investigation into contamination of the town's water system during the mid-1980s. New information is available that indicates a small number of people who lived in the town of Old Fort between 1984 and 1988 may have been exposed to levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the water that might increase their chances of developing non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, kidney or liver cancer.

Individuals over the age of 25 who lived in Old Fort and drank municipal water during the four year period in the mid-1980s are encouraged to talk with their physicians about potential risks of exposure.

"Our goal is to inform the public of a risk that may have occurred in the 1980s so that individuals can talk with their health care providers," said State Health Director Laura Gerald. "Any knowledge about potential exposure can help health care providers make more informed recommendations regarding lifestyle changes, health screenings and treatment."

The contamination was in a well that the Old Fort Finishing Company donated to the town of Old Fort when the plant closed in 1984. The well was disconnected from the town's water supply in January 1988 after the contamination was discovered. Three private drinking water wells nearby also were found to be contaminated and residents were connected to the municipal water system the same year.

The current investigation was precipitated by a citizen concern about potential airborne chemical exposures at Old Fort Elementary School. The citizen also raised questions about a nearby former dry cleaning operation that closed more than 10 years ago. Public health investigators determined there is no current risk at the school. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources' (DENR) Dry Cleaning Solvent Cleanup Act program conducts periodic monitoring of conditions at the dry cleaning site to detect any potential change that could pose a risk to public health.

Public health and DENR officials will be available to answer questions at the public information session.

"We encourage citizens to come to the public meeting to ask any questions they may have," said Old Fort Mayor Garland Norton. "We will stay as long as necessary to make sure our residents are well-informed."

You may view the report and additional documents on the investigation on the N.C. DHHS' Division of Public Health website at http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/oee/hace/by_site.html#oldfort

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