Making NC Well Water Safer

Since so many North Carolina residents draw drinking water from unmonitored private wells, a push is on to improve testing and treatment.
Still, any filling in of blanks could help state and county public health experts like her improve their understanding of where wells are and what contamination risks lurk nearby.
The steps were developed at a 2015 Environmental Health Collaborative summit attended by a mix of drinking water supply and public health experts.
“There needs to be more support for private well owners.
Using 2007-2013 data from North Carolina emergency departments, she concluded in research published last year that 99 percent of 29,400 emergency department visits over a seven year period for acute gastrointestinal illness – vomiting, diarrhea and the like – linked to drinking water were associated with contamination in private wells, not public water supplies.
A bacteria screen can be as little as $25, but a full panel, including pricey tests for radium, can add up to more than $600.
The occupational and environmental branch of the state Division of Public Health recommends that well owners test their water annually for coliform bacteria, one step to detecting animal or human waste contamination.
Gibson’s studies of such neighborhoods in rural Wake County, called “under-bounded” communities by demographers and public health researchers, contribute to evidence that being unlinked can introduce health risks.
Results for both contaminants were only a fraction of a percent in samples taken from the nearby public water.
The summit recommendation Gibson has published also calls for studies to identify these under-bounded neighborhoods, estimate how much it would cost to connect these homes to public water, and make extending water and sewer lines their way a priority.

Learn More