Experts urge homeowners to test wells

Various contaminants not uncommon in Granite State

LYNDEBOROUGH – Al­most half of the residents of New Hampshire rely on private wells – about 520,000 people. Half of those wells are contami­nated with radon and one-fifth with naturally occur­ring arsenic.

While the state doesn’t have uniform testing re­quirements, it is strongly suggested that well own­ers have the water tested by a certified laboratory.

The Third Monday Speakers at the J.A. Tar­bell Library addressed the topic on Oct. 17:

  • Dr. Lucio Bartinelli, a technical adviser of chem­istry with the state water analysis laboratory.
  • Laurie Rardin, MES, is a research coordinator for the Dartmouth Super­fund Research Program.
  • Cynthia Klevens, with the state Department of Environmental Services.

They covered all as­pects of what the contami­nants are, how to test for them and what to do if the well is contaminated.

Contaminants are both natural and manmade, Klevens said. They in­clude arsenic, radon, bac­teria, nitrates, lead and manganese. Each sub­stance has its own health hazards, many of them particularly affecting growing children. While there are tolerances – the parts per million consid­ered no risk – there is no level for lead, which is frequently found in plumbing and pipes.

While the state lab does a lot of the water testing, Bartinelli said, any certi­fied lab can do the work. For a list of such labs, vis­it www.des.nh.gov.

Testing should be done every three to five years, since neighborhood con­ditions change, the panel said. A standard test costs about $85, but other tests can be made for arsenic or radon for less. A typi­cal test kit consists of sev­eral bottles.

If buying a house, the buyer is responsible to be sure the well has been tested.

Everybody’s well needs testing, the experts stressed. Don’t assume your well is fine just be­cause your neighbor’s is. They could be in differ­ent rock strata.

Arsenic is present be­cause of the granite for which the state is known. It can cause serious health issues over the years, such as heart or bladder prob­lems. While boiling water will remove bacteria such as E. coli, it doesn’t remove arsenic. The national EPA standard for arsenic in public water systems is 10 parts per billion.

Many contaminants can be removed with the use of a faucet filter or a house water-softening system.

Radon also is naturally occurring, mainly from granite, and there are sev­eral other radiological ele­ments, including uranium. Radon can cause breath­ing problems, and causes about 100 deaths a year statewide, the panel said.

For more information, email Kathrin Lawlor, of the Dartmouth Toxic Met­als Superfund Research Program, at kathrin. lawlor@dartmouth.edu.

The library’s Third Monday Speakers pro­gram focuses on local peo­ple and topics of interest. Programs begin at 7 p.m. and are free to the public.