Health Officials Advise: Know What's In Your Water

Published: March 14, 2019 at 11:00 am


It sounds like a familiar credit card commercial catch phrase, but health officials locally and across Connecticut are asking: “What’s in your water?”

As many across the US this week observe National Groundwater Awareness Week, the Newtown Health District (NHD) is encouraging Newtown home and business owners who use private wells as their main source for drinking, bathing, or cooking water to have their water tested for bacteria and other contaminants.

And the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) is hoping more than three-quarters of a million other Connecticut residents with well water do the same.

Connecticut does not require annual testing of private well water, leaving voluntary self-testing the only reliable way to find out if any groundwater contaminants have entered the well.

“The state Department of Public Health announced that it is National Groundwater Awareness Week, but here in Newtown, we promote groundwater awareness in all the work we do,” NHD Director Donna Culbert told The Newtown Bee. “The Health District, and all its partner departments — land use, fire marshal, and building — keep the protection of our environment, and especially our groundwater, in the forefront of our work.”

According to the DPH, private wells in the northeast historically have found traces of the naturally occurring chemicals in well water. The Town of Glastonbury recently announced it would be testing private well water in specific neighborhoods due to elevated levels of uranium being discovered in local private wells, and there are similar issues occurring in at least one neighborhood locally.

“Specific groundwater concerns can ebb and flow along with other environmental issues, and right now, the Health District is working with Land Use on several issues that include evaluating potential impacts on groundwater and potentially drinking water,” Ms Culbert said. “Such land use issues include a commercial nursery operation coming into compliance along with the evaluation of and ultimate reuse of an abandoned industrial site. More general drinking water questions have emerged regarding sodium and chloride contamination of wells along with naturally occurring contaminants like arsenic and uranium.”

“Water plays an essential role in everyone’s life. Yet for nearly one in five Connecticut residents who get their water from private wells, we have no way of knowing exactly what is in their water – unless we test,” said DPH Commissioner Dr Raul Pino.

“Proper maintenance and annual testing of private well water systems is essential to protecting the water quality and the health of those who rely on it,” he added. “Testing is relatively simple, and I encourage everyone in this state who uses a private well for water to find out what’s in your water. It’s good for everyone!”

Promoting Awareness

National Groundwater Awareness Week is sponsored by the National Groundwater Association, a network of groundwater professionals nationwide whose mission is to promote public policies to enhance clean, safe groundwater and drinking water. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the observance of National Groundwater Awareness Week.

The Connecticut DPH is encouraging homeowners who use a private well to perform routine safety inspections and maintenance on their water system and annual testing of their well water.

Private well owners are responsible for the quality of their private well water. Wells are required to be tested just after they are constructed, but no annual maintenance or testing is required by law.

“It’s important to know that the majority of water supply in our area comes from groundwater,” Ms Culbert explained. “Even the residents and businesses that are connected to a public water supply, in our area, are served by groundwater, as the water companies source water comes from wells.

“Knowing this should highlight the need to test your water,” the local health director continued. “Water quality cannot be judged based on appearance and taste. A certified lab, like Aqua Environmental here in Newtown, can perform that service. They have been here a long time and have quite a bit of historical knowledge and experience specific to our town.”

Read more about Aqua Environmental in this April 2018 feature.
When To Check

Spring is generally a good time for an annual water well checkup before peak water use season begins, the DPH says, so private well owners should consider taking a few steps to inspect their wells for structural problems, protect it from contamination, conserve water, and most importantly, test the well’s water quality.

“Some contaminants, such as arsenic and uranium, have no taste, odor, or color, so the only way to know if these toxins are present is to have your well water tested,” advised DPH Epidemiologist Brian Toal. “These two naturally occurring toxins can be are found in the bedrock underneath our homes. Long-term exposure to uranium can lead to kidney damage, though these health impacts are treatable and reversible. That’s why testing your water is so important — it’s the best way to find out what’s in your well.”

In addition, Ms Culbert says all Newtown residents can play a role in maintaining local groundwater health by being kind to the environment.

“Activities in the outdoors, along with improper disposal of garbage, chemicals, wastewater, can have significant impacts to the groundwater,” Ms Culbert said. “We can talk more about how to live with a protective mindset of the environment as we approach Earth Day.”

For more information and resources on how to test your well water, visit the DPH Private Well Program website at https://portal.ct.gov/dph/Environmental-Health/Private-Well-Water-Program/Private-Wells#48151 or call 860-509-8401. Locally, reach the NHD at 203-270-4291 or visit https://www.newtown-ct.gov/health-district.

The DPH also points to an informative YouTube video for easy instructions on how private well owners can better protect their well — view it by clicking here.

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