USAPHC water experts recommend well 'wellness' checks

By Jane Gervasoni, Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Public Health CommandApril 1, 2014

Farro well
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 1, 2014) -- Groundwater is essential for human and animal health and well-being. The U.S. Army Public Health Command Water Resources Program helps preserve groundwater quality and protect Army communities from the adverse health effects of water pollution.

"The Army often asks about the health of supply wells and the condition of the aquifer or water-bearing rock below ground that holds the water," said William Fifty, USAPHC WRP manager. "Our scientists and engineers regularly test these military water supplies to ensure that installations are in compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and local applicable codes."

But safe drinking water is not just an Army concern.

"Forty-four percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for its drinking water," said Mark Farro, WRP ground water engineering services chief. "Drinking water comes from wells on military installations and at people's homes, and few people know about the condition of their wells."

People schedule annual physical exams, change the batteries in their smoke detectors and regularly maintain their cars--but "well" wellness checks rarely get completed on a regular basis as recommended by WRP experts.

"Owners should physically inspect their wells every year. They should make sure that the well head is intact and that the surrounding area is free of contamination and standing water," according to Barrett Borry, groundwater section chief. "Nearby storage tanks, such as home heating oil tanks, should be in good condition, and excessive use of lawn fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides near the well should be avoided."

USAPHC experts also recommend periodic (every three to five years) well-water quality tests--more frequently if a change in the water is recognized. The quality tests, at a minimum, should include testing for coliform bacteria. Changes in water color, clarity, odor or taste; unexplained or chronic illnesses; and chemical spills near the well are indications that the well water should be tested more often.

Interested Army organizations can contact the USAPHC for assistance. Help for homeowners with wells is available from other organizations.

"Individuals can contact their local government health agency or the Environmental Protection Agency for information about private wells," said Farro. "We recommend regular well 'wellness' checks to help ensure the health of our population."

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