Study says CT at risk for contaminated water - WFSB 3 Connecticut

I-Team Investigation

Study says CT at risk for contaminated water

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A study from the U.S. Geological Survey says homes with private wells could be contaminated. (WFSB) A study from the U.S. Geological Survey says homes with private wells could be contaminated. (WFSB)
MERIDEN, CT (WFSB) -

A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey shows more than half of the 871,000 homes that have private wells could be exposed.

As long as the water tastes and smells okay, for many, where it comes from is just an afterthought, and for those who are on a public water supply, those concerns are left to a resident’s city.

For those who have private wells, monitoring the water that comes out of taps is 100 percent the homeowner’s responsibility and the study shows a lot of people with wells are at risk.

When Flint, Michigan didn't treat its water for corrosivity, it made national headlines because everyone in the city was exposed to it.

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey suggest the same problem could be happening to hundreds of thousands of individual homes across Connecticut.

“There is a concern, since you said that. I never thought about it,” said Bob Webster of Portland.

The study was released late last year and shows 75 to nearly 85 percent of private wells in Connecticut could contain corrosive groundwater.

Webster is just one of the 871,000 who have a private well supplying the water to their home.

For Connecticut, it all depends on PH levels.

The scale ranges from 0-14, and 7 is the optimum target. That can be achieved by deeper bedrock wells.

Experts say you'll see a higher PH level with those wells because the water passing through the bedrock intercepts more minerals, adjusting the PH level, and that's a good thing.

But that's not happening in all cases.

Shallow wells tend to have a PH that's less than 7, making it more acidic.

Experts say when they're dug closer to the ground surface, they don't have the interaction with the minerals that could adjust the PH levels in your favor.

“Those shallower type sources typically have a lower PH,” said Ryan Tetreault, Department of Public Health supervising environmental analyst.

Tetreault said ingesting low PH water isn't necessarily bad on its own, but many homes in Connecticut were built decades ago when lead was used in pipes, and that could be a dangerous combination.

When water with low PH interacts with lead, a chemical reaction is triggered. It dissolves the metal and delivers traces of it to the tap.

For those on a public water supply, cities and towns are required to test for lead and copper and they will treat the water.

But if you have a private well, “homeowners are responsible for having their well tested and making sure the quality of their water is acceptable for their own consumption,” Tetreault said.

The Eyewitness News I-Team collected a sample from the Webster’s right on the spot.

Scott Nigro, vice president at Aqua Pump, said most homeowners don't test their wells.

“I would say it's very low, under 10 percent,” Nigro said. “Most people would rather spend that money on a TV set than a water filtration system.

Aqua Pump can customize tests. Some are free, but they usually average around $200.

Nigro said when he does them, the results are usually good, with only 5 to 10 percent of customers being affected by pollutants, but he said some of the contaminants he finds have nothing to do with lead.

“Rodents, animals getting into the well causing a bacteria issue,” Nigro said. “If your PH levels are low, your water is corrosive, we would install an acid neutralizer. That would help raise the PH, get the PH above 7.”

With the U.S. Geological Survey showing the potential for thousands to be affected, the state Department of Health has already stepped in.

It has a database of water quality results from private wells and laws require new wells to be tested, with results approved by local health departments before it ever serves a home.

Also, tests are done during the home selling process.

“The testing is something that the potential buyer chooses to do as part of a home inspection or maybe mortgage companies want them to do the testing,” Tetreault said.

To get a reading on Webster’s water, the I-Team took a sample to the state certified lab in Meriden.

It was tested for lead, copper and arsenic and came back clean.

If you have a private well, experts say you should get your water tested annually, but if you see a change in the water's taste, smell or appearance, experts say get it tested now.

For a list of state approved labs, click here.

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