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Well water testing offered

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The Delta County Environmental Health Department last week presented an update on a free well and spring water testing program available to private well and spring water users in the six-county Region 10 area.

To date, 410 people have volunteered to have their own private well and spring drinking water samples evaluated under the program. Of that number, 310 actually provided samples for testing. The five-year program is in its second year funded by the Centers for Disease Control at $109,409 per year.

Ken Nordstrom, Delta County's director of environmental health, said the goal of the program is to get 1,000 people to volunteer to have their private well or spring drinking water tested. He noted there is a lack of information on well and spring water including water quality, well ownership and locations. It is estimated that 30 percent of the population in the Region 10 area relies on private sources of drinking water.

Nordstrom said the overall goal of the program is "to identify hazards and risks of private drinking water supplies and make that information available to the public."

A program advisory explains that homeowners whose primary source of drinking water is a private well or spring may contact their county health department for a free test kit. Water samples are taken and then sent away for testing. Well owners will be provided a copy of the test results and if concerns are noted information will be included on how to eliminate or minimize hazards associated with individual wells.

The application for testing also states, "We will also need your permission to receive a copy of your test results and to be able to use the sample results for analysis and publication."

The samples provided by well and spring water users will be tested for total coliform and e.coli; 22 heavy metals and minerals including lead, arsenic and mercury; seven inorganic chemicals including chloride and nitrates; five physical factors including pH, alkalinity, and hardness; 47 volatile organic chemicals including MTBE, and PCE; and, 20 pesticides, herbicides, and PCBs including Dieldrin, Atrazine and Heptachlor.

According to a graduate student technician working in the program, results of the survey will be merged with data from the Colorado Division of Water Resources, U.S. Geological Survey, EPA, the Agricultural Chemical Groundwater Protection database and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Eventually the information will be posted online and made publicly available to prospective home or property purchasers, public policy makers, planners and health officials. It will be used in developing maps showing the general water quality of wells and spring water in specific areas of the region.

"Personal identifiers and the exact location of the well sample will be removed from any public report of the water sample results," according to a program advisory.

Public health departments of Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, San Miguel and Ouray counties are participating in the program.

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