Title: Rural Drinking Water Quality in Pennsylvania
Project Type: Information Transfer
Start Date: 03/01/2006
End Date: 02/28/2007
Congressional District: 5th
Focus Categories: Groundwater, Education, Water Quality
Keywords: groundwater, wells, education, drinking water, volunteers
Principal Investigators: Swistock, Bryan Reed; Clemens, Stephanie S.
Federal Funds: $18,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $36,000
Abstract: Over three-million rural residents of Pennsylvania rely on private wells for drinking water but previous studies have shown that the majority of these supplies fail at least one drinking water standard. Pennsylvania is also one of only four states that does not regulate the construction or location of private wells. The widespread use of drinking water that contains pollutants in excess of standards represents an economic and health threat to the rural population.Little is known about the current status of water quality in private wells in Pennsylvania and the potential causes of contamination. The objectives of this study are to determine the prevalence of some health-based pollutants in rural drinking water, determine how water supply characteristics (construction, location, management) affect drinking water quality, and to disseminate findings to private water system owners throughout the state using the network of trained Master Well Owner Network (MWON) volunteers. Results from this study may also be helpful in determining the need for specific regulations or homeowner recommendations related to private water wells.
Approximately 450 private water systems will be sampled at eight Saturday workshops in each region of the state (~55 per workshop) in support of a project through the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Samples will be collected by trained MWON volunteers from private water supplies in their communities. Volunteers will visit homes, collect water samples and assist homeowners with a detailed survey for each water supply. Samples and surveys will be returned to a central drop-off location where they will be immediately analyzed for pH, total coliform bacteria, E. coli bacteria and triazine pesticides by the project staff and graduate student. Samples will also be preserved and returned to the Penn State Institutes of the Environment (PSIE) water laboratory where they will be analyzed for nitrate-nitrogen, arsenic and lead. Homeowners will be informed of results along with recommendations to solve problems within two weeks after the workshop. A separate mail and web survey will be used to gather additional information on private water system management and opinions from approximately 1,000 homeowners. Data analysis will include correlation of water testing results to water supply characteristics. Results will be used to update Cooperative Extension fact sheets and make management recommendations to private water system owners.
Progress/Completion Report, PDF