Naturally Occurring Contamination

In Eastern Wake County we expect one in five wells to have unsafe levels of contamination. This concern only applies to people who get water from a private well. If you currently pay a water bill, you may disregard this notice, because your water system is already being tested.

How do I know if this impacts me?

Search for your address on the map below. Those in the colored (blue or green) area are more likely to be affected and should test as directed. Those in the gray area are less likely to be affected by the naturally occurring contaminants though there are a small number of cases that are. All wells should be tested according to the recommendations on the Well Water Testing page. Additional questions and answers as well as more information are beneath the map below.

What are the health risks?

All drinking water may contain small amounts of contaminants. At higher levels, these contaminants may cause health risks.

In the short term, drinking water with too much uranium can cause kidney toxicity. In the long term, drinking water with too much uranium or radium – and drinking or bathing in water with too much radon – can increase the risk of certain cancers.

In general, the people most at risk of becoming sick are infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

If you have concerns about possible health effects, contact your medical provider.

What can I do?

Test Your Well Water

Only testing by a certified laboratory can determine if your well water has unsafe levels of contamination. This is true even if your well water looks, smells and tastes normal. Well water quality may change over time, so you cannot rely on the results of old tests, either from a professional lab or off-the-shelf kit.

To check for potential risks, you can hire a certified laboratory to test for all of the following substances: 

  • Uranium

  • Gross Alpha & Gross Beta

  • Radon in Water

Wake County offers testing for all of the above through our online Permit Portal. Just create an account and follow these instructions to order the "Rads Package." While you're at it, if you've never had your well water tested – or it has been more than five years since your last test – we also recommend ordering the "First Timer's Package." That will test your water for the most common and dangerous contaminants found in all Wake County wells, including lead, germs, pesticides, paints and much more. 

Test Your Radon In Air

In addition, test your home for radon in air. Breathing radon is a major cause of lung cancer. Radon can enter your home through the foundation or dissolved in your well water. You must understand which of these sources is the major cause of the radon in air levels in your home in order to effectively decrease the risk. NC is an excellent website for more information on radon.

What do I do when I get the results?

Use Wake County's Be Well Informed tool for a report of recommendations based on your test results.

Be sure to use the correct units when reading the results. The most common units are:

  • mg/L – milligrams per liter (is the same as ppm – parts per million)

  • ug/L – micrograms per liter (is the same as ppb – parts per billion)

  • pCi/L – picoCuries per liter

More definitions may be found in the “Common Terms Found in Water Testing Reports” section of the Well Water Testing page

What can I do if my results are bad?

If you have high results for Uranium, Gross Alpha, and Gross Beta, a short-term option is to switch to drinking bottled water. 

For high results of Radon in Water, a short term option is to run your bathroom exhaust fan during showers and for an additional 30 minutes afterward.

While neither the State of North Carolina nor Wake County certify water treatment contractors, we can suggest some resources:

  • The Water Quality Association (WQA) has a lot of information, a list of WQA certified contractors, and some questions to consider when hiring a contractor.

  • The North Carolina Radon Program has a information on radon in both air and water. There are also lists of contractors certified to measure and treat radon in air.

Water Treatment Options

Refer to the “What are the water treatment options?” section of the Well Water Testing page for definitions and abbreviations you may the following terms and abbreviations you may come across as you explore treatment options.

More information

For more information there is a 30 minute video of a presentation from Wake County's 2019 Campaign, alerting residents to the issue of naturally occurring contaminants in Eastern Wake County. You may view the video here.


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