A recent study by the University of Iowa found private wells in 50 Iowa towns contaminated with germs, pesticides and arsenic. Carol Sweeting with Iowa City’s municipal water division says a place in the country may not mean the pure, healthy living many city folks imagine. For many years wells were considered safe, but as time went by and we’ve polluted the land, not every well is safe. They run more than 250 tests a day in the city lab on water coming in to the utility and going out to residents, plus they send it for testing at the U of I hygienic laboratory. Sweeting says though you might not give it much thought, in the U.S. we are fortunate to have high-quality drinking-water systems in place. We don’t have people dying from what they drink out of a municipal water supply, and regulators are hoping to give private well owners the same degree of safety consumers trust with big city systems. University of Iowa professor Peter Weyer says while rules require the hundreds of tests done on public drinking-water supplies, private owners are free to remain in the dark. Private wells aren’t required to test, but there’s a free state program to test for things like nitrates and bacteria, through your county health department. And there are ways to clean well water so it’s safer for drinking.A lot of private well owners use filters in the house or attached to the tap, and some even occasionally chlorinate if they think there’s a problem with it. Weyer studied private wells in fifty small rural communities and says virtually everywhere, there’s contamination — from fertilizer to naturally-occuring radium and low levels of arsenic. Weyer is a professor in the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, which studies drinking water, what kinds of contaminants get into it, and how that affects human health.
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