If you have a household drinking water well and septic system, chances are that they didn’t come with an owner’s manual. For most rural residents, proper care of these systems is a mystery. Unfortunately, the opportunity and motivation to learn about these water and waste systems usually comes when something goes wrong. There are several opportunities this Spring, however, to proactively protect your property investments, your family’s health and the groundwater resource that supplies your drinking water.
A free community class, Care and Feeding of Your Well & Septic System, will be offered at several locations in the Rogue Valley in March through May. Classes are currently scheduled for March 19 at the Ruch Library at 1:00-2:00 pm, April 7 at the Central Point Library from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, April 9 at the Applegate Library from 11 to 12:30 am, and on April 23 at the Ashland Library from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. Audrey Eldridge, a Hydrogeologist with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Amy Patton, former DEQ Groundwater Program Manager, will conduct the training.
Well owners may bring a half-cup sample of untreated well water to class in a clean, watertight, glass jar to have their water screened for nitrate concentrations. If your well water receives softening or treatment of some kind, please try to take the sample from a pre-treatment spigot.
The Oregon DEQ and the Health Division of the Department of Human Services have identified areas of elevated nitrates in groundwater in the Rogue Valley. DEQ is planning further characterization of groundwater quality conditions in the Rogue Valley as funding allows. The areas at greatest risk for high nitrate concentrations in groundwater are those with well-drained soils on the valley floor, although high levels of nitrate have been found in other areas as well.
All homes supplied by private wells should conduct regular tests for nitrate and coliform bacteria. For bacteria testing, please contact a local laboratory for instructions on proper sample collection and analysis.
The EPA has set a limit of 10 parts per million for nitrate in drinking water. Nitrate levels above this may present serious health concerns for infants and pregnant or nursing women. Little is known about the long-term effects on adults of drinking water with elevated nitrates. An additional concern is that groundwater containing high nitrate concentrations can indicate that other contaminants may be present in the water.
For more information on wells, water testing, and septic systems, visit the OSU Well Water website at http://wellwater.oregonstate.edu. For information and ideas about protecting the groundwater that supplies drinking water for many Oregonians, visit DEQ’s website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/groundwater.
Event Location: Ruch Library
Event Contact Information: Amy Patton, 541-482-7900