Undoubtedly, you’ve heard of the recent water quality issues in Flint, Michigan. High levels of lead and iron were consumed through their taps in the form of ice-cubes, coffee, bathing, and washing clothes.
There are 1,090 registered wells in the greater Vail and Corona areas. Thousands of residents depend on a consistent source of clean drinking water delivered from their wells. These wells are tapping into the enormous Tucson Basin aquifer in order to provide for their daily needs. For those that depend on well water, the question must be asked, is the water safe?
Doug Dunham works for the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) as a special assistant to the director. “What concerns me is that people are staying healthy. In the past, contaminants have occasionally been an issue.” Doug went on to explain that periodic water quality checks are important, “to monitor if surface (well) seals are going bad and to monitor naturally occurring contaminants.” Additionally, if people are not responsible with their wells, then it can put their household or neighboring well users at risk.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) estimates that between 470,000-1.1 million people in the U.S. are affected with acute gastrointestinal illnesses due to water. According to ADWR guidelines, wells are prohibited to be drilled within 100 feet of a septic system or other hazardous material storage areas. Additionally, there are detailed requirements that cover the surface seal, piping and tanks that any licensed driller will be well versed on. Arizona law requires periodic water quality testing for wells that serve 25 or more people, have 15 or more service connections, or are capable of producing more than 35 gallons per minute. Private well owners that do not exceed the above limits are exempt from this periodic testing.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages all private well owners to test their water for nitrate and coliform bacteria annually in order to detect contamination problems early. I asked five greater Vail and Corona residents if they would be interested in having their water sources tested for high total coliform levels as well as fecal coliforms (Escherichia coli) bacteria. In mid-January, each well owner provided me a water sample from their respective systems which I immediately delivered to the University of Arizona’s Water Resource Research Center (WRRC) for testing. For the purposes of this story, the WRRC performed complimentary testing and determined the following results:
“The results of the water samples came back very good. 4 of the 5 tests indicated zero known microbial contaminants. Just one sample detected the presence of 1 coliform per 100ml of water.” Jean McLain, Ph.D., is the associate director at the WRRC. In reference to the 1 coliform in the water of one sample, “a retest may be a good option, but the number is so small that there is not any actual concern at this point,” Jean added. All 5 tested water samples proved to be safe for consumption. This is great news for these 5 respective users. There are numerous other tests that are recommended for detecting heavy metals, petroleum, and nitrates. If you are a well water owner or a consumer, then you may want to consider following the EPA guidelines and having your water checked every 12 months.
For more information regarding well safety and quality assurance, go to www.azwater.gov