Safe and available drinking water is something all of us need and often take for granted. Our municipal water treatment systems have done such a good job that we do not think about what is required to ensure safe water.
Those who live outside of a rural water district or municipalities often rely on private wells for drinking water. These people should have their well water tested regularly, but they may become frustrated in locating water-testing laboratories and interpreting the results.
Even as an Extension educator for the county, I have run into the same frustrations trying to interpret some of these analyses. Each laboratory has its own format, and often different units are used to report the results.
Another area of frustration for private well owners is sorting out which agency to call to answer questions on water issues or regulations. Do I call the Health Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Soil and Water Conservation District, Department of Natural Resources, or another agency?
Fortunately, the Ohio State University Extension, Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have cooperated to develop a free online “Well Water Interpretation Tool” to help. It provides information on:
• A list of labs certified to conduct well water testing and links to their websites.
• Recommendations on what should be tested in a drinking water sample.
• Guidance on whom to contact for questions on well water.
• A program to enter laboratory results that provides a summary and recommendations. The summary would also state whether remedial actions need to be taken.
• Guidance on well maintenance and groundwater protection.
The Well Water Interpretation Tool is located on the OSU Extension’s Ohio Watershed Network at http://ohiowatersheds.osu.edu. Once at the website, the following navigation steps should quickly allow access to the well water information:
First, select the “Know Your Well Water” option on the top horizontal menu. The opening page will provide individuals with instructions for the laboratory analysis interpretation tool.
Then, the submenu “Well Owners” on the left has three topics of potential interest: Test, Understand, and Protect.
Under the “Test” option are three categories of interest: Tests recommended by Ohio Department of Health, who to contact for questions, and a link to the list of certified water testing laboratories in Ohio.
Under the “Understand” option is access to the online well-testing results interpretation tool. This allows well owners to input data from the water analysis sheet.
After completion, this tool also provides information on understanding the results, which includes Ohio baseline levels, whether test levels exceed Ohio standards, possible health effects, and corrective actions for high levels.
Under the “Protect” option are some basic recommendations for good practices in and around wells. Besides these three categories of the Well Owner submenu, individuals may want to investigate the Contaminant List and Resources submenus.
The “Contaminant List” option has all the potential contaminants that may be found in well water. By selecting a specific contaminant, an individual may find general background, level standards, and health concern information.
The “Resources” option has available online publications and fact sheets, and links to other sites with information on water resources that include ground water quality in Ohio, water concerns in shale gas areas, and private wells.
Protection of Ohio’s water resources is important to all of us. Private well owners are responsible for testing and treating their water. The new “Know Your Well Water” web page should provide assistance and guidelines to ensure safe and quality drinking water
Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for The Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.
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