Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A little arsenic came with the view

Nell Ohff had a colorful comparison for the feeble stream of filtered water that trickled into her kitchen sink.

She wouldn't let me print it, so I'll just refer you to those commercials featuring the old guys who can't get a bike ride in without visiting the restroom.

You get the idea. Filling a coffee pot requires roughly a minute of pressing on the drinking fountain-style tap; rinsing pasta is impossible.

The filters are a pain in the neck and, as a permanent source of drinking water, "totally unacceptable,'' said Ohff, 66, who lives in the Garmisch Hills subdivision, south of Brooksville. "You and I are not going to be able to sell our homes at any reasonable price because of this water situation.''

Yes, Ohff and I are in this together — neighbors and two of the 202 owners of arsenic-contaminated wells in southeastern Hernando County.

Considering that arsenic is right up there with rattlesnake venom as far as infamous toxins go, you can just see prospective buyers crossing these homes off their lists.

So, of course, I'm eager to tell you it's not quite as bad as it sounds.

This became an issue two years ago mainly because the federal drinking water standard for arsenic dropped from 50 parts per billion to 10.

Most of the contaminated wells in Hernando fall between those two levels. Even at the high end, the danger is not the numb limbs or paralysis of acute poisoning, but a 1-in-100 lifetime cancer risk, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But who wants that? Nobody.

My wife and I worry every time we hear the kids taking showers, even though the state Department of Environmental Protection insists arsenic is not absorbed through the skin; we wonder about the long-term consequences of absentmindedly drinking untreated water from the bathroom tap.

The state has responded by fitting a few highly contaminated wells with $4,000 filters that purify water throughout the house. Sounds good, except they haven't worked very well.

Other houses are provided with either bottled water or the sink-mounted filters — priced at $800 — that Ohff complained about.

No, it's not a permanent solution, not if we want to sell our house in the future or sleep at night.

But, then again, it may not be the state's problem.

It absolutely should be, of course, if the contamination comes from a practice the state allowed or mandated, such as spraying arsenic-based pesticides or dipping cows in vats of arsenic solution to kill ticks.

But if arsenic shows up throughout a region, as it does in Spring Lake, it is likely there naturally; a planned state study will determine in a year or two whether this is the case.

If it is, the cost of installing filters and providing bottled water will probably fall on homeowners.

Hopefully, we can shop smarter than the state and find cheaper whole-house filters that actually work.

But we chose to move out here, away from traffic, crime and the public water supply.

The payoff is privacy, great sunsets and flocks of sandhill cranes that fly over every evening.

Expensive filters, inconvenience, worries about health and property values — that just may be the price.

A little arsenic came with the view 01/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. Pinellas votes 7-0 to help sue Legislature over new law favoring charter schools

    K12

    LARGO — They said they had no choice but to do it. They said they would rather reach a compromise.

    Gov. Rick Scott, right, kicks off the 2017 legislative session on March 7 in Tallahassee. Scott later signed a massive education bill that is being challenged by several school districts. On Tuesday, Pinellas became one of them. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Deputies find 24 dogs, 2 birds, 2 cats, 1 child in Hernando home

    Public Safety

    SPRING HILL —A woman was arrested Monday on charges of animal cruelty after deputies said they found injured animals at her Spring Hill home.

    Jennie Card, 44, was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty after deputies said they found her injured animals at her Spring Hill residence.[Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  5. Joe Maddon on being back at Trop, Cash, a new stadium

    Blogs

    More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:

    Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.