The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reports that 43 million people, 14% of the nation's population, rely on their own water supply. Although the EPA regulates public water systems, it has no authority over drinking water from private wells. This means that well owners are responsible for ensuring the safety of their water.
Common groundwater contaminants include an almost endless list of inorganic chemicals, volatile organic compounds, microbes, lead, copper, radon, nitrates, pesticides, petroleum and others. Principal sources of ground water contamination are farming operations, industrial factories, municipal landfills, animal feedlots, septic systems and cesspool effluents.
In tests conducted by the USGS, more than 20% of privately owned wells contained at least one contaminant at a potentially unsafe level. USGS based its report on samples from 2,100 wells taken from 30 aquifers in 48 states. Radon and arsenic were frequently measured at elevated concentrations in areas near crystalline-rock aquifers. Bacteria were found in as many as one-third of a subset of 400 wells, indicating fecal contamination.
A study by the University of Alabama presented at the American Urological Society's annual meeting in April 2009 suggests that drinking well water with pesticide contamination may increase the risk of bladder cancer. This is of special concern for those who live close to farms or golf courses that may use large quantities of pesticides and fertilizers.
Well owners need to be aware of potential health problems and take the necessary steps to safeguard their familys' drinking water. The USGS study underscores the need for regular testing as well as the need for reliable treatment for the plethora of common contaminants.
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