WEF Slates Briefing on Private Wells and Health Impacts

The Water Environment Federation (WEF), in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Water Quality Assessment Program, will sponsor a congressional briefing to discuss new findings about the quality of U.S. private drinking water wells.

“The Quality of Our Nation’s Private Drinking Water Wells: Are Current Contaminant Levels Above Public Health Benchmarks?” is scheduled for March 27 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the Cannon Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that approximately 15 percent of Americans rely upon private wells for their primary source of drinking water. Although EPA has jurisdiction over public water systems, it does not have the authority to regulate private drinking water wells. While some state and local governments set rules to protect users of these wells, the water and its sources are not subject to EPA standards and are not regularly monitored by experts for quality and safety. Private wells may contain contaminants that occur naturally in the environment or from human activity. Households with private wells must take special precautions to ensure the quality, safety, and maintenance of their drinking water supplies.

During the briefing, USGS will release a new study of 2,100 wells sampled in 48 states from 30 of the country’s 62 major aquifers. The study measured 214 naturally occurring and man-made contaminants including nutrients (such as nitrate), radon, trace elements (such as arsenic and uranium), major ions, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds. Experts will describe how cooperating federal agencies and scientists are using this data to address public health issues and answer important questions about the overall quality and safety of private well water. In addition, the briefing will provide private well owners with guidance on state well drilling and well testing requirements, maintenance and testing, and water treatment options.

Featured speakers include:

  • Leslie DeSimone, Ph.D., USGS hydrologist and lead scientist of the USGS study
  • Kevin McCray, executive director, National Ground Water Association
  • Kenneth Cantor, Ph.D., senior investigator, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute
  • Mathew Larsen, Ph.D., USGS associate director for Water (moderator).

This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required. For more information, contact Donna Myers (dnmyers@usgs.gov, 703.648.5012) at USGS or Nick Bardis (nbardis@wef.org, 703.684.2400 x7731) at WEF.

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