BOZEMAN, Mont. - Dangerous levels of arsenic are running through groundwater wells in the Amsterdam-Churchill area. The Gallatin Local Water Quality District says some levels are above the levels deemed safe under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Ari Dyke is no stranger to Amsterdam-Churchill. "I've lived here now for about 91 years, and it's a good place to live," he said.
He's never noticed any problems with his well's drinking water, but the GLWQD says it could have arsenic in it. Workers have found many groundwater wells in the area with dangerously high levels of the toxin.
"I've probably been drinking it for about 91 years, and I'm still here, so it can't be too harmful," said Dyke.
Exposures to arsenic can lead to cancer risks, neurological issues as well as respiratory or skin problems.
"These might not immediately occur from exposure, especially at levels around the maximum contaminant level, but many years of drinking the water can potentially lead to a problem," explained Christine Miller, the water quality specialist at GLWQD.
Free test kits are available at their office in Bozeman for residents who use groundwater wells.
"It's odorless, colorless and tasteless. You do need to test your well water to find out if it's in there and at what levels," she added.
A map she helped put together shows areas around Bozeman and Belgrade with green markers. Those indicate safe groundwater. Red dots sprinkled around Amsterdam-Churchill show high levels of arsenic.
Miller suspects the toxin has gotten into water systems through naturally occurring processes.
"It's probably something that always been there since it's from a geological source," said Miller.
Dyke told NBC Montana, "If people are worried about it they should have their water tested."
Even if residents aren't worried, Miller said it's better to be safe than sorry.
It's important to note that the arsenic levels found in Amsterdam-Churchill are dangerous when it comes to drinking or cooking, but bathing with it is OK.
Residents shouldn't try boiling it to get rid of the toxin, that could increase the concentration.