by: Sarah Cross, Ag & NR Extension Educator (740-942-8823)
What’s in your water? Over 15 million U.S. households obtain their drinking water from private wells, which are not covered by US EPA regulations that protect public drinking water systems. So who is responsible for ensuring that private well water is safe from contaminants? The water well owner.
Learn how to test your drinking water at a workshop entitled, “Shale Gas and Your Drinking Water Supply,” starting at 6pm on April 17, 2014 at the Puskarich Public Library in Cadiz, OH. The event will be co-sponsored by The Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Farm Bureaus of Jefferson and Harrison Counties.
The US EPA recommends that private water wells be checked every year for the presence of coliform bacteria, nitrates, and any other contaminants of local concern. “The need for safe drinking water applies to everyone. If you have a private water drinking supply and haven’t had it tested within the last year, then this event is relevant to you and your family,” says Sarah Cross, OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator.
Many people do not realize water wells can become contaminated through naturally occurring processes. For example, arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in many minerals. When groundwater flows through bedrock, it can easily dissolve hazardous substances, such as arsenic, that occur in the soil. Sources of drinking water can also become contaminated through local land use practices, such as the improper application of chemicals, or by a malfunctioning wastewater treatment system.
In addition, gas well drilling can occasionally impact groundwater sources, including private wells and springs. Although it has not been a common occurrence over the past few decades, contamination may occur from older gas wells with corroded castings. On the newer gas wells, contamination could originate from flooded or leaking waste fluid holding pits or spills at a drilling site.
Consequently, the state of Ohio has approved a piece of legislation that mandates the industry to do some water testing. Based on Ohio Revised Code 1509.06 (A)(8), a company must submit baseline water sampling results for water wells within 1500 feet of a proposed horizontal well. When it comes to oil and gas activity, a baseline water sample is one that is taken before gas drilling occurs. Therefore, if there is a proposed well pad going in near a private water source, the oil and gas company may be mandated to sample the water before drilling activity.
However, unless negotiations have been made in a lease agreement, the company is not required to test private water well sources after drilling has occurred. The owner is left with the responsibility of the “post drill” sample. That being said, both “pre” and “post” drill samples are necessary to determine if water quality has changed due to drilling.
So who is responsible for ensuring that private well water is safe from contaminants? The water well owner.
At the April 17th workshop entitled, “Shale Gas and Your Drinking Water Supply,” participants will find out how to sample their own private water source appropriately, locate a credible water sampling company, and read analytical lab results. All program participants will receive a free drinking water sample kit. The event will be held at the Puskarich Public Library (Cadiz, OH) from 6pm to 8 p.m. Program speakers will include two Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources educators. Dan Lima, with Belmont County Extension, will be giving a brief oil and gas development update for eastern Ohio. This will be followed by a water sampling presentation by Sarah Cross, OSU Extension, Jefferson and Harrison Counties.
The event cost is $5 and RSVPs are required by April 14, 2014. The Jefferson and Harrison County Farm Bureaus will pay one $5 fee per membership. Register by calling the Harrison County office of OSU Extension in Cadiz at 740-942-8823 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration forms and other details can be downloaded at http://www.go.osu.edu/harrisonprograms.