From the Logan County Department of Public Health

National Groundwater Awareness Week March 9-15

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[March 12, 2014]  The Logan County Department of Public Health is recognizing National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 9-15. Groundwater serves as the source of drinking water for the vast majority of Americans, regardless of whether it comes from a private well or from a public system. Because we rely on clean, safe water for survival and for everyday needs, it is important to recognize how to protect this vital resource.

It all starts underground. Groundwater flows slowly between sand, gravel, pores and between cracks in rock in formations called aquifers. These aquifers feed our lakes and streams, are used for agriculture, and most important, provide the drinking water we need. Groundwater can become vulnerable to contamination from above-ground surface contaminants if proper measures are not in place.

There are several ways for all of us to protect our groundwater. First, store and properly dispose of hazardous household substances to prevent direct contact with the ground surface. In addition, do not dispose of unused pharmaceuticals into your septic system (public or private), since traces of medications have been detected in groundwater. Secondly, if you are not served by a public sewer, properly maintain your on-site septic system to prevent improperly treated waste from entering into the groundwater supply. Third, properly seal unused wells, since abandoned wells can pose a safety hazard and can provide a direct route for contaminants to enter the groundwater supply. Prior to having a well sealed, contact your local health department for information concerning regulations.

There are an estimated 400,000 water wells serving the household needs of over approximately 1.3 million people in Illinois. If you rely on your own water well, it is important to properly maintain the well and well site to prevent groundwater contamination. First, make sure sources of contamination (i.e., chemicals, livestock, septic systems, etc.) are located far enough from your well by establishing a safety zone. This setback may commonly range from 50 feet to over 200 feet, depending on type or source of contamination. The Illinois Water Well Construction Code has established regulations for minimum setback distances, and your local health department can provide you with this information. Secondly, it is important to have your well routinely inspected by a licensed water well contractor to ensure the well is maintained and in good condition. Defects such as a crack in the well cap or casing can provide a direct route for surface contaminants to reach your drinking water and groundwater.

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The water from public systems is regulated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and is routinely monitored for contaminant levels. Private well owners, on the other hand, must manage their own water systems and take responsibility to ensure their water is safe. As part of this process, water well owners are encouraged to have their water tested at least annually to monitor bacteria, nitrates and other contaminants of local concern. Well water test kits are available at the Logan County Department of Public Health at a cost of $15. In addition, the health department will provide well water nitrate screenings at the Community Health Fair on March 29. High nitrates in well water, if consumed by infants, pregnant or nursing women, can pose a health risk. To have your water screened, simply bring a sample of your well water to the environmental health display booth.

The Logan County Department of Public Health asks for your support in doing your part to protect our groundwater in recognition of National Groundwater Awareness Week. If you would like more information, contact the Logan County Department of Public Health at 217-735-2317.


Sources: Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois Association of Groundwater Professionals, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

[Text from file received from the Logan County Department of Public Health]

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