Participants attend the Montour County Safe Drinking Water Clinic
Approximately one million rural homes and farms across Pennsylvania utilize private wells for drinking water with over 3,000 of those homes located in Montour County in central Pennsylvania. Users of private drinking water wells and springs are in need of educational resources because the management of these drinking water systems in Pennsylvania is the voluntary responsibility of each homeowner.
For many years, Penn State Extension has delivered Safe Drinking Water Clinics to educate private water system owners about proper water supply location, construction, testing and treatment. Utilizing a grant from the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and a partnership with the Montour County Conservation District, Penn State Extension provided two drinking water workshops on February 28, 2018 which also provided free water testing to the first 50 homes using a private well or spring. The presenters were Andy Yencha, a water resources educator from Penn State Extension in Cumberland County and Bryan Swistock, a water resources specialist with Penn State Extension in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.
The free testing included analyses of a dozen common drinking water quality parameters through the Penn State Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory. Fifty-three homeowners attended one of the workshops where they received their water test reports and assistance in interpreting the testing results. Overall, 40% of the water supplies failed at least one health-based drinking water standard. The most common problems were coliform bacteria, E. coli bacteria, copper, lead and nitrate.
An evaluation of attendees found that 100% felt that they had learned new information and 74% felt they learned a great deal of new information about their drinking water. More importantly, 54% of attendees planned on using information they learned at the workshop to take actions to better manage their drinking water supply such as moving sources of pollution, fixing the construction of their well, or installing a water treatment device.
Pennsylvania residents who are interested in learning more about the proper management of private water wells, springs or cisterns can visit the Penn State Extension website.