Some services suspended after heavy metals found in VA clinic water

Some services suspended after heavy metals found in VA clinic water

It's been more than six weeks and water issues at Wilmington's VA clinic have still not been resolved. Until they're fixed, some veterans have found they can't get certain treatments.

Jeff Melvin, the VA's Public Affairs Officer, says services within the GI, Urology and Dental departments have been suspended, while primary care, mental health and women's health services along with audiology, pharmacy, laboratory, homeless services and others are still available.

In the meantime, Melvin says veterans have either had their appointments moved to a later date or were referred to non-VA care facilities or to the VA clinic located in Fayetteville.

The issue first came up in March when CFPUA officials were called in to test the water. At the time it was discolored with a turquoise tint. Testing showed dissolved copper in the water along with other heavy metals that exceed state regulations.

It was discovered that the issue wasn't coming from the water flowing into the building, but rather an internal problem within the building's plumbing.

From there, CFPUA, following the guidance of DENR, issued a "Do Not Use Notice" to the facility and made the repairs the responsibility of the VA or the property owner.

Melvin said they hope the issue can be resolved soon, but at this point it is out of their control. They believe the property owner, Summit Smith Healthcare Services out of Wisconsin, should be responsible for fixing the issue. We've reached out to the company but have not heard back at this time.

Until the testing samples come back showing safe levels, CFPUA says they will not lift the "Do Not Use Notice." CFPUA also said that there are backflow protections in place to prevent the contaminated water from affecting CFPUA's water supply.

Melvin says the VA is asking for patience as officials take every precaution to ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors of the clinic.

In the meantime, they have bottled water on hand and are testing some staff identified as being at high risk for exposure. So far though, no elevated levels have been detected in any tested staff members, according to a press release.

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