SERCAP Makes a Difference with The Private Well Program
At SERCAP, we take pride in providing expert service in the field of water and wastewater. Part of this service includes educating individuals and communities on ways to manage their water and wastewater systems. Often water is viewed as an endlessly abundant resource when, in reality, quality drinking water is becoming more and more difficult to obtain. We enjoy getting the chance to help these communities by giving them the information and resources they need in order to have one of the basic necessities of life: water.
EPA Private Well Program
We are happy to report that in 2016 we had a successful first year implementing our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Private Well Program. This program provided 120 private well owners across four states with an on-site, individual well assessment. The purpose of this grant is to reach out to well owners and provide education in order to encourage better source water protection as well as promote testing of well water regularly for health safety reasons.
As part of the project, four 4-hour workshops were conducted for professionals who deal with private wells in the following states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. An overview of outreach methods for programs that could potentially be applicable to a private well program was one of the many topics discussed at these well-attended workshops. Other topics included various surveys and an overview of other successful private well programs. These informative workshops also included step-by-step well assessment training using the Well Assessment tool developed for the program by The University of Illinois. Well drillers, geologists, health department officials and cooperative extension agents are just some of the knowledgeable professionals who contributed to this tool.
The well owners who participated in the program enjoyed the assessment process, were very interested in the program and thought it was worth-while. Some have recommended the assessments to their friends, family and neighbors and others have helped spread the word through various organizations they are involved with.
The Well Assessment
Performing a well assessment is a guided procedure that includes the following steps:
- Completion of a standard form (the Well Assessment Tool)
- Interviewing the well owner
- Consulting a well log or completion record (if available)
- Taking photos of the well
- Looking over the surrounding area for any possible sources of contamination
- Online research
The age of the home and plumbing should also be noted due to the potential for lead. It is also important to identify the type of well. Drilled wells tend to be safer than hand-dug wells and springs because the water is stored deep underground and away from contaminants. A well assessment does not include opening the well, so no measurements of well depth or depth to water are taken. This is because in many states it is only legal for the well owner or a certified well driller to break the well seal. Well depth can usually be obtained from the well owner or a well log, and the depth to water is not always needed unless the well is in an area affected by drought.
The well owner should test the water for nitrates and bacteria annually and for other potential contaminants such as lead every 3-5 years. We also encourage well owners to pump out their septic system regularly. Owners should NOT plant trees next to the well due to the risk of roots breaking down the grout barrier and causing a contaminant pathway. It is also important to replace the well cap every so often to ensure the well remains sealed.
We always encourage well owners to seek more education by taking part in the Private Well Class, a free online course developed and offered by our project partners at the University of Illinois. Found at http://privatewellclass.org/. Private well-class.org also has great reference materials for professionals along with well owners, and has regular webinars to which questions can be submitted.