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Residents say: Gold in drinking water


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Residents say: Gold in drinking water


Two Whitehall residents say they're finding gold flakes in their tap water and that it's raising concerns about what else might be in the water.

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Whitehall is about 25 miles southeast of Butte in Jefferson County. The town gets its drinking water from two wells -- one off Division Street and another a half block east of Whitehall Street. Both wells are right in the middle of town.

NBC Montana was in Whitehall today and saw firsthand gold flakes coming from the faucet.

Mark Brown told us his wife Sharon was finishing up the dishes earlier this week when she noticed something unusual.

Brown explained, "She had pulled the plug to let the water out and there were glistening, gleaming little flecks."

They showed us what they found -- small gold-colored flakes, right in the bottom of the sink.

Brown recalled their disbelief, "That couldn't possibly be gold, huh? And I was sure it wasn't."

He showed us how they are finding the flakes in their tap water and also the toilet tank. They ran multiple tests on the flakes and found one of the most precious metals on earth -- gold -- was coming out of the tap.

Brown said, "Everything I tried to do to dispel this, I got nothing. And I can't explain it either. It's bizarre."

Among the tests run on the gold flakes was a chemical test where a solution is used to dissolve any metal that isn't pure gold.

Paul Harper lives next door to the Browns. He's also seeing gold in his tap water. He deals in antiques and gold and is the one who conducted the chemical test. He told us, "There was no dissolving at all of the gold."

Harper ran the test again for us. There was no reaction on the flakes, but when the chemical hit gold-painted foil, it melted away.

Harper and the Browns are concerned about what their findings mean for the town's water supply and its filtration.

"If we're seeing heavy metals that you can see with the naked eye," said Brown, "what else might be in there?"

We spoke to Whitehall Public Works Director Jerry Ward Wednesday afternoon. He tells us there is nothing to indicate anything harmful in the water.

Gold is no stranger to Whitehall. In 1982, the Golden Sunlight open pit gold mine went into operation. The mine is located about 5 miles northeast of Whitehall. The pit mine is visible from Interstate 90.

State water quality officials say there is no reason to suspect whatever the homeowners found in their water came from that mine.

We dug into Whitehall's periodic water quality reports. The city's water has never tested positive for contamination from any metal. It's important to note gold is not a regulated contaminate in drinking water.

An official with the State Department of Environmental Quality told us he suspects the flakes reported came from pipes or a pump, or some approved equipment tied to the Whitehall water supply.

We're told a sample has been sent to a lab in Butte. Estimates are it will take at least 24 hours to find out what's in the water. When they do, we'll let you know.

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