Since the drinking water crisis erupted in Flint, Michigan, people around the country have been wondering just how safe their own water is.
In Virginia, residents are particularly concerned about well water. Tests by Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Extension have found contaminants exceeding federal standards in about 60 percent of well-water samples.
Since 2008, Virginia Tech agents have tested wells used by 16,000 people around the state and found Flint-like levels of lead in almost 20 percent and coliform bacteria in some 40 percent.
About 1.7 million Virginia residents are said to get their water from private wells unconnected to any municipal water systems. Many of these wells serve rural homes, but many also supply homes in subdivisions near metro areas.
“If you’re concerned, have your water tested for a wide spectrum of contaminants by a certified center,” said John E. Moore, M.D., of Carilion Children’s Pediatric Medicine. “Then discuss with them techniques to remove it from your water supply.”
"Radon can also be a concern in well water, especially when used for bathing or washing dishes,” said Dr. Moore. “Every year, it’s estimated that 1,000 deaths in the U.S. are attributed to radon in well water.”
“Another thing to look for is that your water provides some fluoride,” Dr. Moore added. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that water have at least 0.7mg/dl of fluoride to reduce tooth decay.”
Doctors can also apply fluoride gel to children’s teeth during an office visit if they don’t get enough from their water.
To help Virginia well owners determine how safe their drinking water is, the Virginia Household Water Quality Program will hold water testing clinics across the state this year. Tests will cost $52.
Tests will be available in Roanoke and Botetourt counties on June 22. After testing, agents will help residents interpret the results and make informed decisions about how to remedy any problems.
For more information and for testing dates in other locations, go to wellwater.bse.vt.edu. Pre-registration is required. There are also private well-water testing firms across the state.
“It’s not a bad idea to have your water tested,” said Dr. Moore. “That way you know what’s in it.”