Pa. Study Reveals Need for Regular Water Well Maintenance, Water Testing

NGWA recommends well owners test water wells for turbidity, bacteria, other contaminants

A study released last month by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania reveals the need for owners of household water wells to regularly test their water and maintain their wells, the National Ground Water Assn. (NGWA) announced.

Among the findings in the study, The Impact of Marcellus Gas Drilling on Rural Drinking Water Supplies, are:

• Only 20% of the wells in the study had a sanitary well cap;
• An obvious grout seal existed on only 8% of the wells in one phase of the study; and
• About 40% of the water wells exceeded at least one aesthetic or health indicator standard—most frequently for manganese, turbidity or coliform bacteria—before gas well drilling occurred.

While manganese is not a health risk, it can cause staining issues. Turbidity also has no health effects, but can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. It also may indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms.

Coliforms are bacteria that are naturally present in the environment and used as an indicator of other potentially harmful bacteria present such as fecal coliform, which was found in 8% of the wells in the Pennsylvania study.

“The [NGWA] recommends household water well owners annually test their water for bacteria, nitrates and anything of local concern,” said NGWA Public Awareness Director Cliff Treyens. “This should be done whether or not a well owner lives near hydraulic fracturing activity for gas.”

Treyens said NGWA also recommends household well owners get an annual water well maintenance checkup.

“A maintenance inspection typically checks all the sanitary seals on a water well system. Well checkups also should determine if the well needs cleaning, since a dirty well can harbor bacteria,” he said.

Overall, the results of the water quality parameters measured in the Pennsylvania study did not indicate any obvious influence from hydraulic fracturing in gas wells nearby.

National Ground Water Assn.

Pennsylvania Well Owners

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