‘Bit of a mystery’: 7 Casa Grande firefighters test for elevated levels of arsenic

Nearly half of a Casa Grande hazmat team tested for elevated levels of arsenic during their annual heavy metal testing.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 4:05 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:45 PM MST
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CASA GRANDE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Firefighters in Casa Grande received concerning test results when nearly half of a hazmat team tested for elevated levels of arsenic during their annual heavy metal testing. None of the seven firefighters knew they had high levels of the naturally occurring chemical that can cause cancer. Six of the seven are stationed at the same firehouse in Casa Grande. “That was our immediate concern that something in the station was doing this,” said Casa Grande Fire Department Chief Dave Kean.

Kean said he gave bottled water to the team and paid an independent lab to test the water at the firehouse. The results obtained by Arizona’s Family came back clean. Now, he’s trying to find the link between firefighters with arsenic in their system. “We are doing some, lack of a better term, contact tracing,” he said. “What we are doing, we are compiling a spreadsheet if there is some sort of commonality; maybe they all live in the same area.”

The chief says the first responders never got sick or knew they had it. “These aren’t levels that are going to kill anybody or rush anybody to the emergency room over this,” he explained.

According to Dr. Shad Marvasti, just because firefighters aren’t experiencing symptoms now doesn’t mean it can’t lead to serious health complications. “Arsenic is a known carcinogenic, so it can increase your risk for a number of cancers, bladder cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma. It’s definitely something that needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Marvasti. He adds it’s imperative to find where the elevated levels came from.

The Arizona Water Company, which supplies water to Casa Grande, has normal levels, which the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality confirmed from their last testing. “Like I said, at this point, it’s a little bit of a mystery,” said Kean.

Casa Grande is unique in this situation. Marana and Maricopa, similar-sized cities, said that none of their hazmat crew self-reported elevated levels of arsenic from heavy metals testing. “We are going to work with the employees to find out what the issue is. I don’t know if we’ll ever know,” said Kean.

The chief says the firefighters who tested for high arsenic levels will be re-tested again in 30 days.