What you should know about well water

If you are like more than 70% of Oregonians, some of your drinking water comes from wells and other groundwater sources. Approximately 23% of Oregonians rely on private wells as their primary source of water – to drink, to bathe in, and to cook their food. Yet this valuable water source can become contaminated.

Earlier this month the Medford Mail Tribune took a deep look at one such contaminant affecting Jackson County: arsenic.

Many local wells contain arsenic, a naturally occurring, toxic element that if consumed over time, can cause a host of health problems — skin lesions, high blood pressure, cardiovascular damage, diabetes, even cancer. Arsenic is more commonly found in Jackson County than other parts of Oregon, water quality experts say. It is odorless and tasteless. And it can be detected only through testing.

But the practice of testing wells in Jackson County is infrequent at best, state officials say.

“It’s not uncommon to hear that someone has never tested their well,” says Tara Chetock, program coordinator for the Oregon Health Authority’s Domestic Well Safety Program, which aims to spread awareness about regular well testing through partnerships with local health departments and water providers.”

Read more here. - Medford Mail Tribune

Jackson County is not alone. Similar problems exist across the state, but for years state agencies have not had the resources to monitor groundwater quality, so there is little information about the extent of the health threat.

Oregon’s landmark Groundwater Quality Protection Act was passed in 1989, but has never been fully implemented and is woefully underfunded. Similarly, Oregon was one of the first states to require well tests during real estate transactions, but this requirement is rarely enforced and reporting is spotty. As a result, thousands of Oregonians are unknowingly drinking water that could lead to cancer, miscarriage and other serious health risks from arsenic, nitrates and other contaminates.

What have we done about it?

In the 2015 legislative session, OEC laid the groundwork for safer drinking water by bringing landlords and tenants to the table to look into better domestic well testing standards.

What will OEC do about it in the future?

  • Ensure That More Well Owners Test

One way to do this is by improving Oregon’s real estate transaction well testing requirement – giving buyers much-needed information without impeding the sale of property. This data also helps state agencies target outreach and education efforts to places with emerging groundwater contamination problems. A new testing requirement for landlords would help protect the health of renters. Testing requirements should be paired with a loan or grant program to help low-income property owners repair wells or install water treatment systems when necessary.

  • Reduce Septic Tank Pollution

Failing septic systems can pollute drinking water with pharmaceuticals and cleaning chemicals in addition to nitrates and bacteria. Oregon has a new education program encouraging real estate agents to recommend testing septic systems during property transactions. We do not yet know yet whether this voluntary program is effective and an inspection requirement may be necessary. In addition, low-income homeowners need financial assistance to repair or replace failing septic systems, or connect to city sewers.

  • Expand Education and Funding for Well Testing and Groundwater Protection

As the Medford Mail Tribune article points out, mail-order kits can test for a broad range of chemicals. An arsenic test on its own costs about $45. Samples also can be sent to laboratories for testing. Oregon Health Authority recommends testing annually for arsenic, bacteria and nitrate. The more elements you test for, the higher the price tag. Oregon can and should provide support for homeowners and landlords looking to test their wells. 

What can you do now?

 

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Transportation Solutions Featured Toxics-Free Environments Air Quality Media/PR/Statements Climate Protection Policy OEC News/Updates/Events Water News Living Green
Sort by

Oregon House Votes to Curb Diesel Pollution

Old dirty diesel engines may soon be on their way out SALEM — Diesel
June 25, 2019, 10:21 pm
kristas

1

Oregon House of Representatives’ adoption of HB 2020 sends legislation to Senate

OEC applauds the continued progress to climate history SALEM — Oregon’s House of Representatives continued h
June 18, 2019, 3:26 am
tonyh

1

Ways and Means members adopt HB 2020, moves forward historic climate action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 12, 2019 The Clean Energy Jobs bill now moves toward votes in House and Senate
June 13, 2019, 4:39 am
tonyh

1

Oregon’s landmark climate bill moves toward Ways and Means, historic action

Natural Resources subcommittee OKs HB 2020 after amendment FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 5, 2019
June 6, 2019, 3:32 am
tonyh

1

Carbon reduction committee energizes the Clean Energy Jobs bill toward passage

Members approved HB 2020, bill moves to Ways and Means PORTLAND — Members of the Joint Committee
May 18, 2019, 5:17 pm
tonyh

1

Oregon Lawmakers Take Action Against White House Attacks on Environmental Policy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 15, 2019 PORTLAND, OR – The Environmental Protection Act (HB 2250) has passed the Senate and is headed to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown. HB 2250 ensures that Oregon’s s
May 15, 2019, 8:24 am
kristas

1

U.S. Supreme Court passes on hearing oil industry challenge against Oregon’s clean-fuels momentum

The Clean Fuels Standard continues immense success, to remain for decades FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 13, 2019
May 14, 2019, 12:30 am
tonyh

1

#CEJisREADY for final passage: Response to HB 2020’s amendments

Oregon must seize the opportunity to be a national leader in responding to climate change The Clean Energy Jobs bill is ready for a vote by the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction. It’s time. Let’s do this,
May 7, 2019, 5:17 pm
tonyh

1

Transportation Options Abound During National Bike Month!

May is here and warmer weather is on the way. Spring is calling us to get out and enjoy all the
May 2, 2019, 8:05 am
kristas

1


2 Replies to "What you should know about well water"


    Got something to say?

    Some html is OK