Water Testing for Individual Water Wells

Water Testing for Individual Water Wells

In an effort to address private well drinking water potability and to determine the distribution of various contaminants throughout the county, our Division has initiated some changes in the commendations for private wells.  As of August 1, 2005 all new or deepened private individual and public domestic well owners (2-4 connections) are encouraged to test for bacteria and nitrates.  In addition, depending on location, well water should be tested for DBCP (Dibromochloropropane) in the valley and radiological contaminants in the foothills and mountains.  Should any test results exceed the maximum contaminant level, as determined by standards from California Department of Public Health; the owners will be provided with pertinent information on the potential health effects.

Common Contaminants and Their Health Effects

Nitrates

Nitrates are our county’s most prevalent contaminant.  They are found extensively throughout the valley and to a lesser extent in the foothills.  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) sets drinking water standards and has determined that nitrates poses an acute health concern to infants and pregnant women at certain levels of exposure.  Nitrates have several sources.  They are found in fertilizer, sewage and waste from humans and/or farm animals.

Methemoglobinemia or Blue Baby Syndrome is a potential condition in infants where nitrate is converted to nitrite in the baby’s body.  Nitrite interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.  Symptoms can develop rapidly in infants and health deteriorates over a period of days.  Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin.  Expert medical advice should be sought immediately if these symptoms occur.

Pregnant women are also at risk of developing the symptoms of methemoglobinemia.  During pregnancy it is common for methemoglobin levels to increase from the normal range (0.5 to 2.5% of the total hemoglobin) to a maximum of 10% in the 30th week of pregnancy and then decline to normal levels after delivery.  There is, however, no clear evidence that nitrate can be transmitted to the fetus from the pregnant women.

The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrates is 45 parts per million (PPM).

DBCP (Dibromochloropropane)

For many years the agricultural chemical DBCP was used to kill nematodes.  DBCP was banned from use in 1977 but it still persists in the environment today.

DBCP has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals such as rats and mice when the animals are exposed at high levels over their lifetimes.  People who use water containing DBCP in excess of the maximum contaminant level over many years may experience reproductive difficulties are may have an increased cancer risk.  CDPH has set the safe drinking water standard for DBCP at 0.2 parts per billion (PPB).

Radiological

Gross Alpha:  Certain minerals are radioactive and may emit a form of radiation known as alpha radiation.  “Radioactive” means that the element is unstable; it is always decomposing to form a more stable state.  The MCL for Gross Alpha is 15 picocuries per liter (pCi/l).

Uranium and Radium 226/228: Uranium, radium and other radionuclides occur naturally at low levels in many types of rocks and soils and can be present in water due to leaching from natural deposits.  The MCL for Uranium is 20 pCi/l and it is 5 pCi/l fro Radium 226/228.  Over a long period of time, and at elevated levels, cancer and uranium may increase cancer risk and illness from kidney toxicity. 

Note:

It is important to remember that the concentration of nitrates, chemicals and when water containing these constituents are boiled.  Approved treatment options are available to improve the quality and safety of drinking water. 

For additional Information visit the California State Water Resource Control Board.

Water Testing for Individual Water Wells

In an effort to address private well drinking water potability and to determine the distribution of various contaminants throughout the county, our Division has initiated some changes in the commendations for private wells.  As of August 1, 2005 all new or deepened private individual and public domestic well owners (2-4 connections) are encouraged to test for bacteria and nitrates.  In addition, depending on location, well water should be tested for DBCP (Dibromochloropropane) in the valley and radiological contaminants in the foothills and mountains.  Should any test results exceed the maximum contaminant level, as determined by standards from California Department of Public Health; the owners will be provided with pertinent information on the potential health effects.

Common Contaminants and Their Health Effects

Nitrates

Nitrates are our county’s most prevalent contaminant.  They are found extensively throughout the valley and to a lesser extent in the foothills.  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) sets drinking water standards and has determined that nitrates poses an acute health concern to infants and pregnant women at certain levels of exposure.  Nitrates have several sources.  They are found in fertilizer, sewage and waste from humans and/or farm animals.

Methemoglobinemia or Blue Baby Syndrome is a potential condition in infants where nitrate is converted to nitrite in the baby’s body.  Nitrite interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.  Symptoms can develop rapidly in infants and health deteriorates over a period of days.  Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin.  Expert medical advice should be sought immediately if these symptoms occur.

Pregnant women are also at risk of developing the symptoms of methemoglobinemia.  During pregnancy it is common for methemoglobin levels to increase from the normal range (0.5 to 2.5% of the total hemoglobin) to a maximum of 10% in the 30th week of pregnancy and then decline to normal levels after delivery.  There is, however, no clear evidence that nitrate can be transmitted to the fetus from the pregnant women.

The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrates is 45 parts per million (PPM).

DBCP (Dibromochloropropane)

For many years the agricultural chemical DBCP was used to kill nematodes.  DBCP was banned from use in 1977 but it still persists in the environment today.

DBCP has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals such as rats and mice when the animals are exposed at high levels over their lifetimes.  People who use water containing DBCP in excess of the maximum contaminant level over many years may experience reproductive difficulties are may have an increased cancer risk.  CDPH has set the safe drinking water standard for DBCP at 0.2 parts per billion (PPB).

Radiological

Gross Alpha:  Certain minerals are radioactive and may emit a form of radiation known as alpha radiation.  “Radioactive” means that the element is unstable; it is always decomposing to form a more stable state.  The MCL for Gross Alpha is 15 picocuries per liter (pCi/l).

Uranium and Radium 226/228: Uranium, radium and other radionuclides occur naturally at low levels in many types of rocks and soils and can be present in water due to leaching from natural deposits.  The MCL for Uranium is 20 pCi/l and it is 5 pCi/l fro Radium 226/228.  Over a long period of time, and at elevated levels, cancer and uranium may increase cancer risk and illness from kidney toxicity. 

Note:

It is important to remember that the concentration of nitrates, chemicals and when water containing these constituents are boiled.  Approved treatment options are available to improve the quality and safety of drinking water. 

For additional Information visit the California State Water Resource Control Board.