Thursday, April 25, 2019

Master Well Owner Network Volunteers Water Testing Project Shows 50% Of Wells Did Not Meet At Least 1 Health Standard

By Bryan Swistock, Penn State Extension Senior Associate

The Penn State Extension Master Well Owner Network (MWON) is a group of over 200 active volunteers dedicated to the proper management of private drinking water wells, springs and cisterns in Pennsylvania.
In 2018, MWON received funding from the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide a continuing education project that allowed MWON volunteers to receive free water tests followed by live or recorded webinars where they could learn how to interpret the water test reports.
The objective was to provide water testing education that MWON volunteers could use to help other private water system owners.
A total of 90 MWON volunteers from 44 counties collected water samples from 103 private water wells or springs between June 2018 and March 2019.
Eighty-one water samples came from water wells or springs used by the MWON volunteer while 22 water supplies were clients of a MWON volunteer.
Among the water supplies tested in this project, 50 percent failed at least one health-based drinking water standard including total coliform bacteria (41 percent), E. coli bacteria (12 percent), lead (11 percent), copper (10 percent), arsenic (3 percent) and nitrate (2 percent).
Nearly two-thirds of the water supplies failed at least one aesthetic drinking water standard including corrosivity (56 percent), pH (12 percent) and total dissolved solids (7 percent).
After volunteers received their water test reports, they were able to attend one of 17 live one-hour webinars (67 percent of volunteers) or watch a recorded webinar (33 percent of volunteers).
The 90 MWON volunteers who participated in this project indicated that they provided basic private water system education to 2,892 rural homeowners over the past year.
The information that they learned in this project allowed them to specifically assist 371 private water system owners with water testing or treatment questions.
A total of 75 of the 90 MWON volunteers (83 percent) responded to a follow-up evaluation at the end of the project with 99 percent indicating that the project increased their understanding of how to collect and interpret drinking water tests.
Nearly 80 percent responded that the water testing provided by this project provided previously unknown water quality information about the drinking water supply.
Of the water supplies tested in this study, volunteers reported that action was taken on 54 percent as a result of the testing and interpretation including water treatment (29 percent), installation of sanitary well cap (9 percent), wellhead protection activities (6 percent), use of bottled water (3 percent) and follow-up water testing (3 percent).
For more information on how you can become involved, visit the Penn State Extension Master Well Owner Network webpage.
(Reprinted from Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletter.)
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