Test of water wells encouraged during “Groundwater Awareness Week”

National Groundwater Awareness Week News Graphic

While most people do not often stop to consider what goes on underground, this is Groundwater Awareness Week, and officials are encouraging Missourians to take notice.

Missouri has more than 400,000 private drinking wells serving more than a quarter of the state’s population, with most located south of the Missouri River. Officials encourage people to test their well water every year for common contaminants.

Jeff Wenzel, chief of the Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said there are additional reasons to test your well water. “Whenever there’s a known problem with well water in your area if you experience problems near your well like flooding or land disturbances,” Wenzel recommended. “If you’ve replaced or repaired any part of your well system, or you’ve noticed a change in your water quality like the taste has changed, the color’s changed or the odor’s changed.”

The Missouri State Public Health Laboratory tests private drinking water for both bacteria and chemical contamination. Test kits are available from your local public health agency.

Well water testing can help detect naturally occurring contaminants such as bacteria or heavy metals found in rocks and soil. And groundwater can be affected by human activity with fertilizer and pesticides among the more commonly found chemical hazards.

News reports highlight industrial releases or spills affecting surface and groundwater, but Wenzel added even household chemicals can impact groundwater if used or disposed of improperly. “Anything that you pour out on your land, any waste, any liquid can make its way down to that groundwater where you or someone is potentially drinking that,” Wenzel pointed out.

Everyday products capable of polluting groundwater include obvious items like cleaning solvents, used paints, and motor oil, but also some soaps and detergents.