The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report in August revealing that 20% of untreated water samples from wells across the U.S. contain concentrations of trace elements exceeding human health benchmarks. Raissa Rocha, editorial intern for Water Quality Products, spoke with Joe Ayotte, USGS hydrologist and lead author of the study, about the report and the occurrence of trace elements in groundwater.
Raissa Rocha: What was the purpose of this study?
Hydrofracturing is not a new concept—in fact, it has been utilized by the gas and oil industries in the U.S. since the 1940s. Thanks to increased media attention, however, many are led to believe that this is a new technology developed specifically for the extraction of natural gas.
Evaluating gas drilling’s effects on groundwater and air quality
In recent days, groundwater has been gaining attention. Increased hydraulic fracturing operations have caused controversy over potential methane gas contamination. Reports indicate that groundwater aquifers, especially in the drought-prone southwestern U.S., are being depleted more quickly than they can be recharged. Surveys, like the one recently released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), reveal that contaminants such as arsenic are widespread in the nation’s water wells.
As I write this, the U.S. is in the wake of two natural disasters: the earthquake that rocked the East Coast on Aug. 23 and Hurricane Irene, which spun its way from the Carolinas to Canada just a few days later.
Private wells are largely unregulated, and the task of ensuring safety is usually left up to the homeowner. A handful of states have regulations requiring a water test on a private well when the property is sold or a new well is drilled. While not every state has regulations, there may be testing requirements at the county or township level for real estate transactions or certificates of occupancy.
Benefits of comprehensive water testing for homes with well water