Groundwater Quality Study of the NC Lithium Mining Region

Update (4/16/2024): Due to the recent publicity of our study we have received unprecidented interest from homeowners. Unfortunatly we cannot sample all of the homes that have signed up through the survey so we will be contacting homeowners individually to sample their wells and are no longer seeking participants.

Researchers at Duke University are conducting a water quality study of groundwaters from areas located in and around the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt, an area in Cleveland, Gaston, and Lincoln counties where lithium-rich pegmatites are known to exist. The goal of this research is to develop an understanding of the legacy of lithium mining on the water quality in the region. Collecting groundwater samples will give us information on the occurrence of trace metals in groundwaters around lithium deposits and from historic mining while establishing the natural background levels.

We are seeking local residents with private wells who are willing to participate in the study. If you are interested in participating, please check if you home/well fall within the study boundaries (see map), and fill out the survey.

Study Boundary Map:

If your home falls within the blue boundaries shown on the map, you are eligible to participate in this study.


Overview of Sampling: Sampling will require that we have access to water from the well, either directly from a spigot on the well head or from a spigot on the house (water that has not gone through any filtration) and will take approximately 30-45 minutes to flush the well so that 500 mL of fresh groundwater can be sampled. This can be done either with or without a resident’s supervision as long as information on well/spigot location and permission are provided.

Samples will be taken back to our lab at Duke University where they will be analyzed for a variety of trace and major metals. Approximately 4-6 weeks after sampling the resident will receive a report on their water quality with reference to the EPA drinking water quality standards ( A list of the parameters that will be measured can be found below.

What we will do with the information collected: The data collected from the sampling will remain confidential and the water quality information will not be publicly connected to any individual or property. The findings from the study, including the data, will be published without identifying information or the specific location. These findings will be used to establish natural background water quality as well as develop methods to determine if water quality has been affected by historic lithium mining.

Potential for Adverse Outcomes disclaimer: Testing water quality may reveal potential water quality issues such as elevated concentrations of trace or heavy metals. This knowledge may cause undue distress and as such it will be at the discretion of the participant if they want to receive the information about their water quality.

Water quality parameters that will be tested: pH, Alkalinity (HCO3), Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Fluoride, Chloride, Bromide, Nitrate, Sulfate, Lithium, Beryllium, Boron, Aluminum, Vanadium, Chromium, Manganese, Iron, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Zinc, Arsenic, Selenium, Strontium, Molybdenum, Silver, Cadmium, Antimony, Barium, Thallium, Lead, Thorium, Uranium

Project Objectives: This sampling campaign is part of a larger project funded by the NC Water Resources Research Institute out of NC State ( with the intent of understanding the general water quality characteristics in the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt. This is geologic region in North Carolina where lithium mining has occurred historically and where plans are in place to reignite mining. The primary outcomes of this research will be to understand the natural background water quality as well as to develop an understanding if historic mining had an impact on local water quality. This work will take a geochemical approach to understanding where and how any contaminants come from.

Who we are: We are an environmental geochemistry research lab at Duke University that has historically focused on understanding how natural and human caused contaminants have entered the environment. Much of the lab’s work in the past has focused on the impacts of energy production and fossil fuel usage on water quality. This project will primarily be conducted by Gordon Williams, a graduate student in the department of Earth and Climate Sciences, and Professor Avner Vengosh who leads the lab and research activities. More information can be found at our lab website:

Understanding you Water Quality Report: Our object with providing water quality reports to homeowners is to prove information on their water. These reports may provide adverse information such as an exceedance of one or more elements relative to the EPA drinking water standards ( While we can only provide information on the quality of your water, state and federal agencies proved information on the remediation practices and suggestions on equipment that may be useful.

If you have any questions, please contact Gordon Williams at & Avner Vengosh at