This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Natural and Anthropogenic Contaminants in Groundwater and Cancer Cases in Fruithurst, Alabama




Cain, Connor

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis



Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



The communities of Fruithurst and Muscadine in northeast Alabama, have a combined population of 1,600 people. Between 2013 and 2017, four children and four adults were diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma. The goal of this study was to identify cancers present in the study area, understand what contaminants existed in the water, and a way to provide safe drinking water to community members through water filters. A community survey collected data from 526 respondents showed that 100% of stomach cancer, 83% of lung cancer, 75% lymphoma, and 73% of leukemia cases used well water as their primary source of drinking water. Water quality data were collected and analyzed for radioactive elements and inorganic and organic contaminants, and mapped using ArcMap to understand their spatial distribution. Radon levels (N=25) range from 1.3 to 8,449 pCi/L with 16% of well above the EPA’s advisory limit of 4,000 pCi/L. Our study shows that both ROS and activated carbon filters can remove more than 98% of radon in well water under moderate rates of water use (< 90 liters in ROS filter and < 45 liters in activated carbon filters). Trace elements (U, Pb, As, Zn, Ba, Cr, Se) in a Phyllite sample show 46% to 1,160% enrichment compared to concentrations of Earth’s upper continental crust. Most trace elements in well water were not found in concentrations exceeding the U.S. EPA MCL suggesting that they are mostly locked in solid minerals. The zinc and DEHP data suggest a possible local hydrologic connection of groundwater near the ProBlend. The Moran’s I Bivariate maps show that concurrences of high radon and high rates of leukemia and lymphoma per capita are primarily located to the west-southwest of Fruithurst. Comparison of both a full ROS filter and activated carbon filter show a significant drop in radon levels in the filtered water.