From the sounds of things, the situation has gone on for quite some time… and residents in rural Lower Yakima Valley may have had elevated nitrate and bacteria for quite some time now w/o anyone really looking into where the contaminants came from.
Stories like this one ought to make EVERY private well owner seriously consider having their water tested by a certified water testing laboratory and performing routine checks themselves with at-home well water test kits — because the responsibility for the safety of private well water rests solely with well owners.
YAKIMA, Wash. — An effort to address polluted groundwater consumed by many rural Lower Yakima Valley residents was formally launched Thursday as local, state and federal officials pledged to tackle a stubborn problem that’s been decades in the making.
“It’s going to be a big challenge. It’s a difficult problem,” said Tom Tebb, regional director for the state Department of Ecology in Yakima.
“But it matters because we have people drinking water contaminated by nitrate and bacteria and at unsafe levels in some cases,” Tebb said at a news conference to announce the effort.
Five agencies released the final version of a report on groundwater quality that is a wide-ranging compilation of historical data about the contamination, health effects, regulatory responsibilities and recommendations for action.
Of some 30,000 private wells in the Lower Valley, 20 percent have elevated levels of nitrate and bacteria.
This week, federal regulators began their own testing program on 150 wells to try and determine the source of the nitrates and bacteria.
To make sure the samples are tested in a timely fashion, a mobile laboratory has been driven to Yakima from Manchester, Wash., on the Kitsap Peninsula, home of the regional lab for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Two microbiologists will test for coliform bacteria, fecal coliform and e. coli and conduct “microbial source tracking” to determine if the bacteria are human or ruminant. Cattle are ruminants, and manure from dairy and feedlots is one suspected source of both nitrate and bacterial contamination.
Another round of testing in April will help the agency determine the link between elevated levels of nitrate and sources of nitrate, which can come from manure, chemical fertilizer or septic systems.
If the test results allow regulators to identify obvious sources of pollution, enforcement action could follow, said Tom Eaton, director of the Washington operations office of the EPA in Seattle.
Results are expected sometime this summer. ( source )
If you own a private well and do not have your water tested on a regular basis you run the risk of exposure to an almost limitless number of contaminants that can get into the aquifer at any time and for a number of reasons. Natural disasters, changes in weather patterns, heavy demand from other well owners, etc. can all affect the quality of the water in your well.
Water Tests by a Certified Drinking Water Testing Lab
Short of having the Environmental Protection Agency come out and test your well and/or water, no better option exists than to have your water tested by a certified drinking water testing laboratory like National Testing Laboratories which offers three levels of testing:
Basic Test Kit — Tests for 27 Common Drinking Water Contaminants: Aluminum, Arsenic, Barium, Cadmium, Calcium, Chromium, Copper, Iron, Lead, Magnesium, Manganese, Mercury, Nickel, Selenium, Silver, Sodium, Zinc, Alkalinity, Chloride, Fluoride, Nitrate as N, Nitrite as N, Sulfate, Hardness, pH (Standard Units), Total Dissolved Solids, and Turbidity (Turbidity Units).
Most Popular Test Kit — Tests for 83 Drinking Water Contaminants: Bacteria (presence/absence for coliform and E.coli), (19) heavy metals and minerals, (6) other inorganic chemicals, (5) physical characteristics, (4) trihalomethanes and (47) volatile organic chemicals.
Most Popular + Pesticides — Tests for 83 Drinking Water Contaminants: Bacteria (presence/absence for coliform and E.coli), (19) heavy metals and minerals, (6) other inorganic chemicals, (5) physical characteristics, (4) trihalomethanes and (47) volatile organic chemicals plus an additional 20 tests for pesticides, herbicides and PCB’s.