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IDPH recognizes Groundwater Awareness Week

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) joins the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the State Hygienic Lab (SHL) and the National Ground Water Association in recognizing March 11 through 17 as Groundwater Awareness Week. Just as you check your furnace or smoke detector batteries seasonally, spring is a good season to have an annual water well checkup before the peak water use season begins.

“About 20 percent of Iowans get their drinking water from private wells,” said IDPH Environmental Health Division Director Ken Sharp. “When tested, about one-third of those private wells typically produce an ‘unsafe’ result for bacterial levels. It’s important residents regularly test well water to ensure their drinking water is safe.” In addition to private wells that are in active use, Iowa is estimated to have as many as 200,000 abandoned wells and cisterns. These abandoned wells not only provide a safety hazard because of improper closure, they can also leach contamination into the groundwater.

The IDPH Grants to Counties program makes grants available to local county health departments to provide financial assistance to their residents for private water well services. The DNR provides technical oversight of water well testing, water well closure, and water well renovation through the program. With grant money, residents of participating counties who own a private well can receive free well tests; and receive reimbursement of up to $600 for each well that is renovated, up to $400 for each well that is plugged, and up to $300 for each eligible cistern that is plugged.

For more information on the Grants to Counties Water Well Program, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/eh/grants.asp. To learn how private individuals can get their water tested, visit www.shl.uiowa.edu/services/wellwater/ordering.xml. For information about National Groundwater Awareness Week, visit www.ngwa.org/Events-Education/awareness/Pages/default.aspx.