Tests reveal high levels of arsenic in Valley company's drinking water

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PEORIA - “First of all I was angry because this has been going on for a while and they're just now notifying us?” Margaret McNabb wondered.

After receiving a warning letter in the mail, homeowner Margaret McNabb wanted answers.

The letter was a notice from her water provider, New River Utility, informing her of high levels of arsenic in her drinking water.

“I never questioned whether or not my water was safe for drinking,” McNabb said. “You just assume that these companies are governed by somebody who makes sure that their safe.”

The maximum level for arsenic allowed by federal standards is .01 mg/L.

But in the 12 months leading up to the July notice, water tests from New River Utility revealed arsenic levels exceeded that standard by an average of .00124 mg/L.

“This is very concerning,” she said.

3 On Your Side wanted to know how concerned people should be.

After all, experts say over a period of time exposure to even low levels of arsenic can cause health problems.

The Maricopa County Department of Environment Services tells 3 On Your Side it wasn't until after these compliance orders were issued that New River Utility began notifying customers about the problem.

The order also required the company to treat its water supply.

By phone, a spokesperson from New River Utility told us that they are now using a facility to specially treat the water for arsenic and, Kevin Chadwick from County Environmental Services confirms that it has helped.

“The water that New River Utilities is providing is both safe as far as arsenic and nitrate,” Chadwick said.

Still, we wanted to see for ourselves so we took a sample of Margaret's water to have it independently analyzed.

While arsenic was detected, the amount was within federal guidelines.

That's little consolation for Margaret who says there's a good chance she and her family have been drinking dangerous chemicals for some time now, without any warning.

“You know, had I known I would've never consumed the water,” she said. “In fact, I don't think I would've bought a house here.”

High levels of nitrites were also found in three water sample tests last year.

Ingesting nitrites is especially harmful to babies younger than six months and is commonly linked to blue baby disease, and can lead to death.

Currently, however, the county tells us New River Utility is in compliance for both nitrites and arsenic and that the water is safe.