McALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A new project is underway in the Valley to get safe drinking water to communities in need.

The Methodist Healthcare Ministries along with Texas A&M School of Public Health is working on the “Safe Water Project.”

Jaime Wesolowski, the president and CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, said after learning about contaminated water in colonias, they decided to take on the project.

“We learned through Texas A&M University, that a lot of the colonias have water that they’re using as clean water, but they are laced with arsenic, uranium, and other contaminants,” Wesolowski said.

He added that arsenic and heavy metal contamination will be a focus of the study.

“What continued exposure to higher levels of arsenic will do is it causes cancer, it causes heart disease. And for children, it affects their developmental abilities,” he said.

This is the first time they will be conducting the study in the valley but researchers have experience with the study.

“We’ve done several similar studies and other parts of Texas. So, we’ve worked quite a bit in environmental justice communities in the Houston area. And we’ve even looked at areas in the Brazos Valley and Hays County,” said Garett Sansom, an assistant professor with Texas A & M School of Public Health.

Sansom is also a lead on the project.

He explained that several community partners are helping with the project but it takes the communities participation as well.

“I think one of the most difficult first spots, but also fun part is this initial community engagement work, you really need to build those relationships prior to actually going in, because it both is a more ethical way to conduct research and improve scholarship itself,” Sansom said.

The research is taking place in two undisclosed colonias, according to Sansom.

The plans are to have data ready by Fall 2024, and the goal is to get the attention of local and state legislatures with the hope of receiving funding by 2025 to complete the project and get clean water to colonias.