Toxic water found in private wells

A recently released study by the U.S. Geological Society has found that private wells are more likely to contain unsafe levels of trace elements, including arsenic, manganese, radon and uranium. Exposures to these elements in high levels have been known to cause serious health problems. These can range from cancer to kidney disease, affecting child intellectual development and symptoms that mirror Parkinson’s disease.

There is no one cause of these elevated levels of elements in well water. Some of the elements occur naturally and enter the water system through natural processes; however, the water from private wells in urban areas more often had levels of trace elements that surpassed human health benchmarks, levels where chemical concentrations become dangerous.  

Of the private wells studied, one fifth showed levels of one or more trace elements that exceeded human health benchmarks. The public wells that were tested were deemed safe, due to the EPA regulation of contamination levels. “In public wells these contaminants are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and contaminants are removed from the water before people drink it. However, trace elements could be present in water from private wells at levels that are considered to pose a risk to human health, because they aren’t subject to regulations. In many cases, people might not even know they have an issue,” said USGS Hydrologist and lead author on the study Joe Ayotte. The public wells are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act through EPA regulations on drinking water quality.

The contrast in contaminant levels between public and private wells illuminates the importance of the EPA and their regulation. Without these regulations in place, Americans would no knowledge of what they are drinking, there be no way to ensure that everyone has access to clean drinking water. In our current political climate many leaders are trying to take regulatory control away from the EPA. Contact your legislators and tell them that you believe in how important the EPA is and that you are counting on them to protect it. To find your congressional representatives, visit