The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced vouchers for free well water testing for domestic well users in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area (LUBGWMA).
OHA is accepting testing voucher applications from May 15 to June 7. The vouchers cover testing for nitrate, arsenic, bacteria, lead, iron, manganese and hardness.
The vouchers are eligible for well users who live in parts of Umatilla and Morrow counties and use the well water for drinking, bathing, cooking, and washing dishes.
“It’s important that everyone in this area of concern who relies on a domestic well finds out whether they are exposed to high nitrates and other common contaminants in their drinking water,” said Gabriela Goldfarb, OHA’s Environmental Public Health Section manager. “Testing is an essential first step that allows OHA to provide well users in Umatilla and Morrow counties access to treatment systems or other alternative sources of water for daily living.”
As of the announcement, 38 testing vouchers have been distributed in Morrow County and one in Umatilla County. Most were submitted following a March 11 event organized by Morrow County Public Health and community-based organization Oregon Rural Action. Volunteers went door to door to promote well water testing, distribute OHA well testing voucher applications and collect water samples.
Morrow County conducted extensive water testing after issuing a June 2022 domestic well water emergency declaration; Umatilla County has also made testing available to residents. OHA is working closely with the counties to use existing test results to identify households at risk and offer treatment and, where treatment is not adequate, provide alternative water supplies with support from the Oregon Department of Human Services.
OHA’s testing and treatment effort is funded through June 2023 by a $881,987 Legislative Emergency Board allocation, which pays for 800 tests and 84 reverse-osmosis treatment systems.
OHA will soon begin providing vouchers for in-home treatment systems for certain households with private well water. Those that have tested at or above 10 mg/L, the maximum recommended contaminant level for the compound in drinking water, may be eligible for treatment or provision of water for household use.
The LUBGWMA is an area that spans the northern portions of Morrow and Umatilla counties along the Columbia River, and encompasses the cities of Hermiston, Boardman, Irrigon, Stanfield, Echo and nearby unincorporated areas. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) designated the LUBGWMA in 1990 under Oregon’s groundwater Quality Protection Act of 1989 due to regional nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in groundwater that exceeded 7 mg/L.