June 2, 2020

Drinking Water Unsafe In 40 Percent of PA Wells

About 40 percent of all water wells in Pennsylvania fail to meet drinking water standards and about 14 percent are contaminated with E. coli, according to Penn State researchers.

Pennsylvania is second only to Michigan in the number of people who drink water from wells, but it’s one of the only states in the country that lacks statewide regulation on well construction- one of the main reasons private wells fail to meet safe-drinking-water standards.

Over the last three decades, the university has tested thousands of water wells and consistently found that just 60 percent of them meet safe drinking water standards, according to Bryan Swistock, a water specialist, with Penn State Extension Services.

Swistock testified this week before the state legislature’s House Consumer Affairs Committee in a hearing on House Bill 1855, which would create standards for water-well construction.

“Our research has shown that inadequate water well construction is  a contributing factor to the failure of some private water wells to meet safe drinking water standards in this state,” he said in a statement.

“While proper well construction does not completely eliminate water-quality problems, it clearly plays a role in preventing surface contaminants from getting into wells. Bacterial contamination rates in water wells with sanitary construction were about half of the rates found in water wells which lacked any sanitary construction components.”

Pennsylvania, Alaska and Massachusetts don’t have statewide regulations regarding new well construction, according to Christine Reimer, government affairs director at the National Groundwater Association. And most states don’t mandate that wells are tested on a regular basis, she said.

In Pennsylvania, about one third of well owners have never had their water tested, Swistock said,  that poses significant potential health risks among millions of rural residents, farmers, and businesses that access the shared groundwater resource.

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