Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Test Your Water

If your home drinking water is supplied from an onsite or private well, you are responsible for ensuring that your water is safe to drink. Unlike public drinking water systems serving many people which have experts regularly checking the water quality, no one is looking out for families with their own wells. The US EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act does not protect private wells; however, public drinking water supplies which serve the vast majority of Americans are tested for the complete list of primary and secondary contaminants .
A drinking water well that is contaminated could significantly impact your health and the value of your property. There is no requirement, but as one of the 15% of American families whose drinking water is supplied by a private well, I feel I should test my drinking water for these primary and secondary contaminants of concern to the US EPA. In this we need to serve as our own watch dogs. Part of the price of your own water supply is maintaining it and testing it. City and county health departments have local rules and regulations for the installation of wells and can often help with testing for bacteria and nitrates which are contaminants from septic systems, drain fields and livestock. The water well test that was performed when you bought your house probably only tested for bacteria and nitrates. Are you certain that the water you drink is safe?
Due to its protected location underground, most groundwater is naturally clean and free from pollution. However, not all groundwater is clean and safe because we as an industrial society have buried and poured out too much waste. The excellent case studies by Rosemary Stephen “Trichloroethylene (TCE) Water Contamination” illustrates this point better than I could here. For twenty or thirty years homeowners in Sterling, Virginia were drinking water contaminated with TCE and its biodegradation products. According to Ms Stephen “In 1988, Loudoun County Department of Health and the EPA started studies on the land fill, testing for hazardous substances. In three residential wells located close to the landfill, they found traces of TCE, its biodegradation products and pesticides. In 2005, Loudoun County Health Department carried out testing on 68 more wells in the area of the landfill. Forty-five wells tested positive for TCE; 17 of these wells contained concentrations of TCE above the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 micrograms per liter (mcg/L) while 28 other wells contained TCE, but below the MCL.” The site was declared a CERCLA (Superfund) site in 2008. Between 1988 and 2005 no testing was done on the individual homeowner wells. The water was consumed by the young and old.
Have you tested your drinking water this year and if so what have you tested it for?

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