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A consumer information booklet produced by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources lists potential contaminants that include nitrate, bacteria, sulfur, fluoride, arsenic, lead and radionuclides, which are carcinogenic radioactive elements that occur as uranium and thorium isotopes decay.
The risk for these contaminants can vary depending on what aquifer the well draws from and where in the state the well is located.
THIS IOWAWATCH INVESTIGATION WAS SUPPORTED BY A GRANT FROM THE FUND FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
Russ Tell, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources senior environmental specialist, said he suggests people look at the landscape and the history of land use in the area surrounding their well. For example, are any landfills, truck stops or other potential contaminators nearby? They can perform additional testing based on any concerns that come up, he said.
“We encourage owners to talk with the people, like at the State Hygienic Lab, and say, ‘You know, I live in an agricultural area and these are my concerns. What should I test for?’ And the lab professionals are really good at adapting water tests for that specific individual,” Tell said.
In some cases, additional testing, beyond the basic nitrates, bacteria and arsenic tests, can be covered by the state’s Grants to Counties program through cooperation between the counties and the State Hygienic Lab, which gets a portion of the program funding.
“In the past, it seems like there’s always been a door open when we’ve needed to run extra tests to figure out a problem” Tell said.