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Notice to Readers: Ground Water Awareness Week, March 12--18, 2006

Each year, the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) sponsors Ground Water Awareness Week to focus public attention on protecting ground water and the importance of private well maintenance and water testing (1). Other partners in Ground Water Awareness Week include CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Groundwater Foundation.

During 2001--2002, a total of 31 waterborne-illness outbreaks were reported to CDC; 16 (52%) of these outbreaks were attributed to improperly treated or untreated groundwater (2). Private wells typically provide untreated or minimally treated groundwater for drinking. Because private wells are not covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, NGWA and its partners recommend annual well-maintenance checkups and water tests for contaminants of health concern (1,3). Certain contaminants, such as arsenic, can occur naturally in groundwater (4), whereas others are linked to well placement, construction, or maintenance. For example, improper storage or disposal of hazardous substances such as fuel, oil, fertilizer, or pesticides can endanger well water quality (4). Improper disposal of household waste, such as pouring cleaning products or other chemicals down the drain or toilet into septic systems, can also contaminate groundwater used for drinking (5). In addition, wells are susceptible to bacterial contamination if surface runoff pools around the wellhead or if the wellhead is too close to an animal enclosure, feedlot, or septic system drain field (6).

Information about Ground Water Awareness Week and the public health benefits of well maintenance, water quality, and water testing is available at http://www.wellowner.org, http://www.watersystemscouncil.org/wellcare/index.cfm, http://www.cdc.gov/health/water.htm, and http://www.epa.gov/safewater.

References

  1. National Ground Water Association. Ground Water Awareness Week. Westerville, OH: National Ground Water Association; 2006. Available at http://www.ngwa.org/awareness/aware.cfm.
  2. CDC. Summary surveillance for waterborne-disease outbreaks associated with drinking water---United States, 2001--2002. MMWR 2004;53 (No. SS-8):24--45.
  3. US Environmental Protection Agency. Drinking water from household wells. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency; 2002. Available at http://www.epa.gov/privatewells/pdfs/household_wells.pdf.
  4. National Ground Water Association. Ground water quality basics. Westerville, OH: National Ground Water Association; 2006. Available at http://www.wellowner.org/awaterquality/basics.shtml.
  5. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Disposal of hazardous household wastes. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service; 1992. Available at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/housing/pubs/fcs3683.pdf.
  6. National Ground Water Association. Planning for a water well. Westerville, OH: National Ground Water Association; 2006. Available at http://www.wellowner.org/awaterwellbasics/planningforawaterwell.shtml.



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