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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
PUBLIC GOVERNMENT BUSINESS A to Z LIST

Media Center
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DATE: May 6, 2009
CONTACT: Bernard Lucey, DES, (603) 271-2952
Sarah Pillsbury, DES, (603) 271-1168

All Private Drinking Water Wells Should Be Tested - Many Have Unsafe Levels of Arsenic, Radon

Concord, N.H. – The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services warns that users of private wells may be at risk without proper testing and treatment of the water. Citing research indicating that 20 percent of private wells in the state have unsafe levels of arsenic, and that even more have unsafe levels of radon, DES urges private well owners to test their well water every few years. Contamination from salt and other human-caused contaminants such as the gasoline additive MtBE is less common, but does occur. DES estimates that 36 to 40 percent of New Hampshire residents rely on private wells for their drinking water at home, with the rest relying on public water systems, which are closely regulated.

There are currently no statewide testing or treatment requirements for private wells, although work done by well contractors and pump installers is governed by state rules.

“Only a handful of towns in New Hampshire have meaningful testing requirements for private wells – typically in connection with certificates of occupancy or real estate transfer,” according to Bernard Lucey, a senior engineer in DES’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau. Lucey has been working on the issue – by trying to educate the public as well as local health officers and other local officials – for more than ten years. “In the vast majority of New Hampshire towns, it’s up to the homeowner to make the decision to get their water tested, and then to become informed about the treatment options, if indicated,” Lucey added. “To protect their health and the health of their families, every private well owner should test for arsenic, radon, uranium, and gross alpha.”

DES’s recommendations for homeowners regarding private well testing can be found on DES’s website (search for “NHDES private wells”), or by calling Lucey at 271-2952.

Governor John Lynch has proclaimed May 3 – 9, 2009 as Drinking Water Week. The safety of water from private wells was identified as one of the state’s top drinking water issues in a recently released DES report that covers a broad range of water resources problems. The New Hampshire Water Resources Primer is available from DES at 271-2975 and at www.des.nh.gov look under “Hot Topics.” The Primer is also the subject of a series of public meetings currently being held throughout the state; a schedule of meetings is available at http://des.nh.gov/media/pr/2009/090306.htm.

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