By Martha Scott Tomlinson and Paige Bommarito
Paige Bommarito (right) is a doctoral student at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Well Empowered is a collaborative project between UNC faculty, students, and science education and community engagement staff, in partnership with local communities, to build capacity to prevent exposure to toxic metals in private wells.
In response to the Dan River coal ash spill in 2014, North Carolina mandated that all wells within a half mile of coal ash basins be tested for inorganic contaminants. These tests revealed that many wells had levels of toxic metals.
In response, community leaders contacted the UNC Superfund Research Program (SRP), led by Rebecca Fry, PhD, to help them understand their exposures and associated health risks.
Dr. Fry established an interdisciplinary team that included us, students from Dr. Fry’s lab, along with expertise from Duke University’s Avner Vengosh, PhD, and the UNC SRP Translation Core, led by Kathleen Gray, PhD. We worked alongside community groups, led by the non-profit Appalachian Voices, to develop a three-phase study.