Monday, March 20, 2017

Well Water Testing Clinic in Loudoun County

 The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Office will be holding its annual drinking water clinic for well owners in Loudoun County as part of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program on March 27th 2017. To sign up in Loudoun County you must prepay sending your check for $52 made out to the Treasurer Virginia Tech and the attached sign-up form to the VCE Loudoun Office, 30 Catoctin Circle SE, Suite B, Leesburg, VA 20175. The Loudoun Clinic is filling up fast.

The program consists of two meetings- one to get instructions, learn about the local geology and wells, and pick up test kits, and the other a month later to get results and provide interpretation and recommendations. Samples will need to be dropped off at the VCE  Loudoun Office for analysis a day and a half after the first meeting. The samples will be analyzed for 14 chemical and bacteriological contaminants and the cost $52. Comparable analysis at a private commercial lab would cost $150-$200. Samples will be analyzed for: iron, manganese, nitrate, lead, arsenic, fluoride, sulfate, pH, total dissolved solids, hardness, sodium, copper, total coliform bacteria and E. Coli bacteria.

The Kickoff Meeting will be on March 27, 2017 at 6-7  pm in the Board Chamber on the First Floor, Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison Street, SE, Leesburg, VA  20175
A brief presentation will be given to discuss common water quality issues in your area and instructions for how to properly collect the water samples from your tap. Water sampling kits will be distributed with written sampling directions and a short survey about your water supply for data gathering purposes. 

The samples should be taken early Wednesday morning and then dropped off on Wednesday March 29, 2017, between 7 am and 10am at the VCE Loudoun Office, at 30 Catoctin Circle SE, Suite B, Leesburg, VA 20175.

Results Interpretation Meeting will be held on May 8, 2017 at 6-7:30 pm once more in the Board Chamber on the First Floor, Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison Street, SE, Leesburg, VA  20175. Participants will receive their confidential water test results. A presentation will be given that explains what the numbers on the test report mean and what possible options participants may consider to deal with water problems. Experts will be on hand to answer any specific questions you may have about your water and water system.

Just because your water appears clear doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to drink. All drinking water wells should be tested at least annually for at least Coliform bacteria and E Coli. Testing is the only way to detect contamination in your water. Testing is not mandatory, but should be done to ensure your family’s safety. Maintenance and ensuring that water is safe to drink is the responsibility of the owner. If there is a pregnant woman or infant in the home the water should be tested. If there is any change in the taste, appearance, odor of water or your system is serviced or repaired then water should be tested to confirm that no contaminants were introduced.

Most of the water quality issues with private wells are from naturally occurring contamination or impurities. While many natural contaminants such as iron, sulfate, and manganese are not considered serious health hazards, they can give drinking water an unpleasant taste, odor, or color and be annoying and persistent problems and EPA has established secondary standards that can be used as guidance. Excessive levels of sodium, total dissolved solids, harness, can be an annoyance and impact appliances. Several of the naturally occurring contaminants that commonly appear in well water are primary contaminants under the Safe Drinking Water Act and can be a health hazard- nitrate, lead, arsenic, floride, and copper.

The VCE Drinking Water Clinics from 2009-2015 testing in Loudoun County found that the most common Contaminants found in the wells of Loudoun County were sodium, coiform bacteria, low pH, maganese and lead.

The presence of total coliform bacteria is an indication that surface water may be entering a well and that there may a pathway for other, more harmful microorganisms. Total coliform was found to be present in 27% of Loudoun County samples. E. coli was found in 6% of the sample and is an indication that human or animal waste is contaminating the groundwater. The most common sources of E. coli is a failing septic system or improperly manage manure from animal operations.

Sodium levels above 20 mg/L was found in 29% of the Loudoun samples. Given the distance from natural salt water sources, this is most likely from water softeners. Excessive levels of maganese, a nuisance contaminant naturally present in our local geology, was found in 13% of Loudoun samples.

Low pH was found in 14% of samples. While not a concern in and of itself low pH can cause the corrosion of metal piping, fixtures and brass fittings and result in elevated lead levels in the water. The testing found first draw lead levels exceeding the EPA trigger level of 0.015 mg/L in 12% of samples.            

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