You may mistakenly believe that because your drinking water comes from a well, it’s purer and safer than water from reservoirs. A recent article in a Connecticut newspaper (Stamford Advocate) dispelled that notion, when it reported that unhealthy traces of arsenic were found in private wells in some southern Connecticut towns, and that the Connecticut Department of Public Health received numerous reports of pesticide and heavy metal contamination in residential drinking water across the state.
Common Contaminants & Health Effects
Well water can contain a host of contaminants, including coliform bacteria, lead, arsenic, E. coli, nitrates, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) radon, pesticides, and MtBE (a gasoline compound). Many of these contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well is acceptable. Contaminants can cause a wide variety of health problems, including skin problems; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies.
Wells in the Tri-State
Arsenic, radon, and heavy metals can seep into the water supply from rock, not just industrial pollution. Water in areas that have experienced flooding can also become contaminated. Can private wells be regulated by the EPA? The EPA regulates public water systems; it does not regulate private water wells. Yet, nearly 25% of private wells contain harmful contaminants, according to the U.S. Geological Survery Water Science School. In the New York tri-state area, high levels of arsenic, radon, and heavy metals are a major issue.
Although the Connecticut state Department of Public Health does not require private well owners to test their water for known toxins, other communities are taking steps to protect us. Westchester County in New York implemented the Westchester County Private Well Water Testing Legislation, Local Law 7 – 2007, which requires that water test be conducted upon the signing of a contract of sale for any property served by a private well. New Jersey also has similar testing laws.
How Often Should I Test?
At a minimum, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends that you check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems, and have it tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, VOCs, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants.
Who Should Test My Well?
An independent testing company that uses state-certified (licensed) laboratories will give you thorough, unbiased results. If they find a problem, they will help you determine what your next steps should be. For more information on water testing, click here. To set up a well water test in the tri-state area, call RTK at (800) 392-6468 or click here.
Depending on the contaminants, this may spell danger. So, if your drinking water comes from a private well, better to be safe than sorry; have your well tested to make sure you are not putting yourself, your family, or your employees in danger.