High arsenic levels found in Charlo area wells

Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 19:46:15-05

CHARLO – A woman and a child from the Charlo area were reportedly hospitalized for arsenic poisoning two months ago.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services cannot confirm any hospitalizations, but has been working with the Department of Environmental Quality to test home water in the surrounding area.

DPHHS informed 90 residents in and around Charlo that a neighbor’s private well tested high for arsenic in December.

McGowan Water of Missoula said they are currently treating about 100 homes with arsenic in their water throughout Western Montana. Those customers are located in Charlo and Arlee outside of Missoula and in the Bitterroot Valley.

Arsenic can be treated so it is safe to drink, and McGowan Water sales manager Joe Farbaugh says concerned customers should test and treat for arsenic.

“We all know what arsenic does. It’s a cancer-causing agent. Those are the things that we have to be really careful of, and it’s very serious for us because that’s our customers, and they’re coming to us for help. We have to give them the right answer.”

85 percent of the wells DPHHS tested show levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency recommends for drinking. The tests will eventually determine if the high levels are naturally occurring or come from another source.