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Gowanda water called safe after slightly elevated levels of barium detected

Elevated level of barium found in the village’s drinking water supply last year did not pose a risk to Gowanda residents, Cattaraugus County health officials said Tuesday.

In January 2015, officials found that water from a backup well – no longer in use – had barium levels above standards. A second sample in June confirmed that, according to a statement distributed to Gowanda residents.

The average of the two test results showed barium levels elevated by about 2 percent.

The same well tested below the threshold in both 2009 and 2012.

“This was a short term in which this exposure actually occurred,” said Dr. Kevin D. Watkins, public health director for the Cattaraugus County Health Department. “There’s no relative health risk. We just want to assure (residents) at this particular time the appropriate measures were taken to prevent any long-term exposure.”

“The water is safe to drink,” Watkins said.

Officials suspect the backup well, which serviced the village’s drinking water supply on a temporary basis, tested slightly above the maximum drinking water standard for the naturally occurring earth metal.

“It’s a trace metal naturally occurring in the earth’s crust,” said Eric W. Wohlers, Cattaraugus County’s environmental health director. “So, it’s not uncommon.”

The village returned to a spring water supplied system within the Point Peter Brook Watershed on Jan. 14.

Long-term exposure to elevated barium levels over many years can result in an increase in blood pressure.