LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - Months after the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority told its customers it was no longer safe to drink the water because of a chemical contamination, there is still no good way for the people impacted to determine the severity of their exposure.
Last May we told you federal officials had detected unsafe levels of two chemicals in the drinking water of the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority. The chemicals have been linked to a number of health problems, including certain cancers.
Since the problem was detected, the water authority has taken a number of steps to improve its water filtering and the latest reports show the chemicals at below detectable levels.
But what about the people who drank the water all those years before the Environmental Protection Agency’s report and WMEL's ensuing warning last year? The health risks are highest for nursing infants and young children, state officials have said.
It turns out, a specialized blood test is needed to detect the presence of the chemicals, PFOA or PFOS in the blood.
Last June we called eight hospitals to find out if they could that testing. No.
We asked local health departments if they could provide blood tests. No.
A private company, LabCorp said it can do the testing, but the tests cost close to $1,000, and two are required.
In New York, where another exposure to the chemicals was discovered, the state agreed to pay for the blood testing.
So, in June we also asked the Governor’s Office if Gov. Bentley would direct the Alabama Department of Public Health to provide that kind of testing. We were told Bentley was considering that option.
Now, eight months later, the Governor’s Office said Bentley “remains open to the idea,” and that he was discussing it with the Alabama Department of Public Health. We were told we’d get an update in the near future.
But when we asked about a timetable -- did that mean days, weeks, months -- we never heard back from the Governor’s Office.