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Home Water and Septic System Workshop held in Chester County

Posted: October 5, 2015

Penn State Extension held a Home Water and Septic System Workshop twice on September 29 in South Coatesville. A total of 74 people from 57 households attended, primarily from Chester County but also Lancaster and Cumberland Counties
Extension Associate Bryan Swistock discusses water treatment. Photo: Amy Galford

Extension Associate Bryan Swistock discusses water treatment. Photo: Amy Galford

Senior Extension Associate Bryan Swistock and Extension Educators Diane Oleson and Amy Galford covered the basics of groundwater, private water wells, water testing, home water treatment, and septic system maintenance. Funding for the workshops was provided by a grant for the Penn State Master Well Owner Network from PA Groundwater Association and PA DEP. East Fallowfield Township and Chester County assisted with meeting arrangements and publicity.

Grant funds also provided free testing of 51 private water supplies. Acidic water low in dissolved solids may be corrosive and leach metals such as lead and copper from pipes, solder, and fixtures. More than half the households had potentially corrosive water. Ten supplies tested at or above the drinking water standard for nitrate, a health standard particularly important for infants and pregnant women. Nitrate originates from agricultural and landscape fertilizers, manure, and septic systems. Twenty-six supplies tested positive for total coliform bacteria, with one positive for E. coli bacteria. The drinking water standard for both kinds of bacteria is zero organisms. E. coli is of particular concern because it indicates waste from septic systems, pets, livestock, or wildlife is reaching the groundwater. Workshop participants learned about getting further water testing done at state-accredited laboratories.

In electronic evaluations at the workshop, 68% of respondents indicated they learned a great deal of new information and 32% learned some new information. Asked about plans for action based on what they learned, 82% intend to protect or improve their private water supply and 51% plan to take action to protect or improve their septic system.

After the class, one attendee wrote, “I found the workshop to be very useful, and I already intended to get a formal test. Actually, I'm not sure my water treatment system is needed/effective, so I intend to test the water before and after the treatment to assess that.” Others commented, “Thank you for sharing your expertise last week at this seminar. It was very informative, well paced and rich in resources for further exploration,” and “Just to let you know, we are having our septic tanks pumped next week.”

Penn State Extension workshops on drinking water will be offered in York County on October 26 and in Lawrence County on October 27. Check the Water website or contact your local Extension office to let them know you are interested in future programs.