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. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.