Monday, November 15, 2010

What Can A VAMWON Volunteer Do For You?

The Virginia Cooperative Extension obtained a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Research Education and Extension Service (USDA-CSREES) to restart the Virginia Household Water Quality Program (VAHWQP) originally launched in 1989. and establish the Virginia Master Well Owner Network (VAMWON). Not exactly an acronym that rolls off the tongue, but VAMWON volunteers can help simplify understanding the components of a well and private drinking water system. VAMWON trained VCE agents organize and conduct county-based drinking water clinics and serve as a local resource for clientele with household water quality concerns.

VAMWON volunteers and agents provide education to rural residents about private water system management. To help protect families who obtain their drinking water from private wells, Virginia now licenses water-well installers and has a series of regulations for private wells to make sure that new wells are properly constructed. In addition, the Health Department permits the wells. In Virginia private well regulations date back to 1990 and the Department of Health expanded the regulations in 1993. Prior to that only public water supply wells and private wells constructed during the installation of a new or repaired septic system were regulated by the Department of Health. However, the vast majority of the private wells in Virginia were constructed before the regulations and there is no requirement that these older private wells comply with safe drinking water standards.

Current regulations ensure that a well is built properly, but does nothing to verify that it continues to work properly and the water remains healthy to drink. That is the job of the well owner, and it takes some work and some knowledge which the VAMWON volunteers and agents can provide. Unlike public water systems, private systems are entirely unregulated; consequently, the well location, construction, testing, and treatment are the voluntary responsibility of the homeowner. As a result, many individual water wells have never been tested, and their owners are generally uninformed about water quality issues. The VAMWON volunteers and agents can provide information and resource links for private well owners and inform Virginians dependent on private water systems about water testing, water treatment, and system maintenance.

Poorly constructed and unmanaged water wells are a potential risk to groundwater aquifers that supply wells and the homeowners, farmers, and businesses that access them. Pollution of entire ground water aquifers may occur from failing septic systems, manure and fertilizer applications, mining, or other land uses. Individual water supplies may also be contaminated around the exposed well casing (wellhead) from surface water flowing along the well casing and/or from a loose fitting or absent well cap that allow insects, animals or surface water to directly enter the well. VVAMWON volunteers and agents are available to provide information on how to inspect a well , respond to questions from neighbors, present information at local HOA or township meetings, and hosting a booths at a county fairs. In addition, volunteers also educate neighbors through various media sources (i.e., internet, newspaper, and township newsletter articles). You can find your VAMWON volunteer neighbor through this link by entering your county in the search box.

A VAMWON volunteer or agent can provide guidance for you to verify that your well is properly constructed, functioning properly and your water is potable and of good quality. The VAMWON volunteer or agent can help identify problems with the water system and provide information on suggested treatments. They can provide information on the limitions of various water treatment options and other solutions. Finally, the VAMON volunteers and Agents has information on household water conservation and managing your well during a drought. Consulting with your VAMWON volunteer and agent should be your first step in understanding and managing your private water supply.

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