Well water near Tenn. ash flood may be unsafe

Associated Press - December 29, 2008 5:03 PM ET

KINGSTON, Tenn. (AP) - Authorities are warning residents near a massive spill of coal ash in eastern Tennessee to stop drinking water from private wells or springs.

State and federal officials say some water samples slightly exceed drinking water standards for toxic substances, and arsenic in one sample was higher than the maximum level allowed for drinking water.

The Environmental Protection Agency notes that arsenic occurs naturally in the environment, but elevated levels can cause ailments ranging from nausea to partial paralysis, and long-term exposure has been linked to several types of cancer.

The Tennessee Valley Authority operates the power plant where the spill occurred. It says there are four private drinking water wells in the area affected by the spill and the agency should have tests from them this week.

The warning comes a week after a retention pond burst at the Kingston Steam Plant, spreading more than a billion gallons of fly ash mixed with water over roughly 300 acres and into a river.

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