Podcast: Coping With Contaminated Well Water Means Changing Habits

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Lauren Shotwell/IowaWatch file photo

Craig Melvin talked about his well, located in a field a short distance from his house in Farragut, Iowa, on Aug. 19, 2016, as a storm rolled in. When Melvin and his family first moved into the house around Easter, they had to treat the water with chlorine to address some bacteria issues. The well, built in 1980, also had high levels of nitrogen and trace levels of arsenic and lead.

An IowaWatch report told how the Iowans drinking water from private wells may not know what is in their water because their wells’ water quality is unregulated. Yet, some well owners were not concerned about it.

IowaWatch spent most of 2016 researching data on well water quality and doing its own water testing for nitrogen, bacteria, arsenic and lead. Those tests high nitrate and bacteria levels in a large percentage of the tested wells.

Eleven of the 28 wells IowaWatch tested in May and June 2016 had nitrate levels above 45 milligrams per liter. Two more tested at 43. The acceptable nitrate level under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health standards is 45 milligrams per liter, although the level usually referenced for nitrogen is 10 milligrams per liter.

Fifteen of the 28 tested wells showed unsafe bacteria levels. A handful also had trace amounts of arsenic and lead.

IowaWatch shared its testing results with well owners. This IowaWatch Connection report lets you hear from some of those well owners and also from the people trying to help them keep their private wells — and drinking water — clean and healthy.

Your Guide To IowaWatch’s Investigation Of Iowa Well Water Quality