August is National Water Quality Month. Your regional water authority is responsible for making sure the public water you use is safe. It is your responsibility to protect the public water supply by obeying rules posted by water authorities and not contaminating public watershed areas with pollutants. For example, never dump unwanted household products down roadside drains. Roadside drains are called catch basins or storm sewers. You may think that these drains collect wastewater that goes into the sewers. But the fact is that many of these drains are collection points for the water that we drink! Most of these drains do not have filtering systems. The water that they collect often flows right into the drinking water supply. It is essential that you never dump pollutants such as used motor oil or paints nor waste like dog feces or fertilizers into these drains. Dumping of such products can cause contamination and pollution of your community’s drinking water supply.
It may help if you understand the water collection process. Most groundwater (the water which flows underground and is replenished by rain) eventually becomes drinking water. It is collected via natural underground routes or through man-made systems, known as catch basins. (Those are the drains you see along the road that you always thought were part of the sewer system.) Which roadside drains are part of the water collection system is hard to know unless you study a water supply map. The part of a town where water is collected for the drinking water supply is called a public water supply watershed area. These areas are marked by signs, but most of us are unaware of the exact location and boundaries of these areas.
HOME OWNERS NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR WELLS. If you are a homeowner who uses drinking water from a well, it becomes your responsibility to be sure that your drinking water is safe. Many things can affect a well, especially periods of heavy rain. Periodic water quality testing of private well water is recommended for all private well owners, (regardless of the weather) and should be part of routine household maintenance. At a minimum, private wells should be tested annually for total coliform bacteria, nitrite/nitrates, pH, color and turbidity.
The occurrence of bacteria in well water is common, treatable and in most cases preventable. Many older wells have the well head located below the ground surface. This increases the risk of contamination due to surface water intrusion. Actions to decrease the risk of contamination include: Extending the well casing at least six inches above the ground surface; providing a watertight well cap; inspecting and repairing any cracks or corrosion in the well casing; and directing surface water away from the well. All work on the well must be done by a Connecticut registered well contractor, with proper permits obtained from this health district. If your well floods due to heavy rainfall, you should consider it contaminated by bacteria and it should be disinfected. (Disinfection procedures are available from this office.)
The State of Connecticut, Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section (with the EPA and UCONN) has published “A Guide to Drinking Water Quality”. In this guide, several recommendations are made for protecting your well. Some of the suggestions are: Know where your well is located; Be sure that the well has a cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of, or entry into, the well; Periodically inspect exposed parts of the well for problems; Slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff away from the well; Avoid mixing or using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels or other pollutants near the well; And never dispose of hazardous materials into a septic system.
There are other things to think about if you have a well. For example, there are water-related appliances, like well pressure tanks, hot water heaters, humidifiers and dehumidifiers that help make the water most suitable for your purposes. These appliances need periodic maintenance and servicing, just like your furnace does. Don’t wait until they stop functioning.
For a complete packet on wells, well maintenance, water testing and decontamination procedures, District residents can call QVHD, 248-4528. You can also find the information at http://tinyurl.com/zj9jbyw.