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CDC Private Well Initiative Update

On June 20th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Private Well Initiative for Environmental Surveillance and Public Health (PWI) held a “Community of Practice” meeting with its members via conference call/webinar (which was attended by ASDWA staff).  The PWI is a national workgroup with membership from state health and environmental agencies, the U.S. Geological Survey, several universities, and national associations, including ASDWA.  The purpose of this week’s meeting was to provide updates about a number of activities being conducted across the nation as follows:

  • CDC’s ongoing state grant projects have now moved from collecting and normalizing local data, to compiling and submitting data to CDC via a national data compilation process.  While the development of a CDC database has been placed on hold for now due to technical difficulties, the states are continuing to submit information to CDC through a survey monkey format.
  • CDC’s Drought Epi-Aid effort to investigate the impact of drought conditions on private well owners included a series of homeowner surveys and focus group meetings in Arkansas, Indiana, and Oklahoma.  This investigation revealed (among other findings) that homeowners had limited their water use during periods of drought, but that only 50% of homeowners had tested their well water quality.
  • The University of Texas conducted outreach activities in Texas and Arizona to assess citizen concerns about drinking water, and educate them about contamination incident causes and fixes.  This followed an event in Arizona where brain eating amoebas (coming from groundwater and feeding on tank sludge with no disinfection treatment) were responsible for the death of two small children who bathed and swam in water from the system.
  • Rhode Island is continuing to implement its private well testing requirements during real estate transactions.  The buyer pays for the testing conducted by a state certified lab and mortgage companies ensure that the testing is conducted to meet Federal Housing Authority guidelines.  This legislative requirement was motivated by a contamination incident from a landfill in a community of 1300 people.
  • A representative of North Carolina noted that Governor Pat McCrory has signed a bill to protect consumers from drinking toxic water that will become law on July 1, 2013.  The law includes the following provisions:
    • Requires local health departments to provide information to citizens constructing new drinking water wells.
    • Directs the Commission for Public health to develop rules requiring residents who attempt to drill wells near contaminated sites to complete more extensive well testing.
    • Requires all local health departments to educate well owners on a regular basis about dangers and provide testing recommendations.

An article about the law can be viewed here:  http://www.wncn.com/story/22638407/gov-mccrory-signs-bill-protecting-consumers-from-drinking-toxic-water.

For more information about the PWI workgroup, please contact Lorraine Backer of CDC at lfb9@cdc.gov or 770-488-3426.