Drinking Water Week Puts Spotlight on Private Wells, Public Infrastructure
Concord, N.H. – Governor John Lynch has proclaimed May 2 - 8, 2010 as Drinking Water Week. Two of the biggest challenges with respect to drinking water in New Hampshire, according the state’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), are that users of private wells may be at risk without proper testing and treatment of the water, and public water systems are relying on old infrastructure that’s sorely in need of replacement or upgrading.
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.
Public water systems have troubles of their own. Water supply sources (wells, reservoirs, dams), intake structures, pumps, treatment facilities, storage tanks, and underground water lines all need to be maintained and sometimes periodically replaced. Much of the water supply infrastructure in New Hampshire’s cities and towns is 50 to 100 years old. The federal stimulus money that reached New Hampshire for drinking water projects left another $577 million in drinking water projects unfunded over the next 20 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“New Hampshire is glad to be getting the federal stimulus money, and the state’s water suppliers were eager to apply for it,” noted Sarah Pillsbury, administrator of the Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau at DES, “but we had over $260 million in requests for only $19 million in stimulus money.”New Hampshire’s top drinking water issues and other related topics are covered in the New Hampshire Water Resources Primer, which is available from DES at 271-2975 and at www.des.nh.gov (look under “Hot Topics”).
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