204173 Occurrence of volatile organic chemicals in private drinking water wells in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lora Siegmann Werner, MPH , Region 3, ATSDR/CDC, Philadelphia, PA
Karl V. Markiewicz, PhD , Region 3, ATSDR/CDC, Philadelphia, PA
Kyle Schmeck , Division of Water Quality Management, Montgomery County Health Department, Norristown, PA
Rachel DeMarzio , Division of Water Quality Management, Montgomery County Health Department, Norristown, PA
Ellen Schmitt, MPH , Drinking Water Branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3, Philadelphia, PA
Shirley Fan , Interdisciplinary Studies, College of William and Mary, Cherry Hill, NJ
More than 2 million Pennsylvania residents use private wells for drinking water. However, Pennsylvania does not require testing for chemical and biological analytes in private wells, and in addition Pennsylvania is one of four states that lack standards for private well construction. For a number of years, legislation has been proposed to regulate private wells in Pennsylvania, but this has been unsuccessful. The United States Geological Survey reports that of 2,500 groundwater wells sampled for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) across Pennsylvania, 14% had levels that exceeded the respective Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs); they also detected VOCs in 65% of domestic well samples across the U.S. Since 1997, the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) has taken a proactive step at the local level by requiring all new private wells be tested for specific water quality parameters including total coliform bacteria, pH, nitrate, 21 VOCs, and total arsenic. MCHD also samples wells near known sources of groundwater contamination and wells that are the subject of a complaint. MCHD VOC data up to 2006 show that 811 of the 1,415 wells (57%) sampled in this biased data set had detectable levels of 27 different VOCs, with 11 different VOCs exceeding their MCLs. After mapping and analyzing this data set, we believe this information further highlights the widespread contamination problems in private wells in Pennsylvania, and the need for required, routine monitoring of private wells to (1) mitigate existing exposures and (2) refer areas of groundwater concern to environmental agencies for further evaluation.

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate value in recognizing and mitigating exposures to contaminated drinking water via a county requirement to test new private drinking water wells for biological, organic, and inorganic contaminants. Emphasize the prevalence of contamination in private drinking water wells in Montgomery County, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S.

Keywords: Environmental Exposures, Water Quality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, and a B.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I have been an Environmental Health Scientist with ATSDR Region 3 for the past 10 years. I am responsible for overseeing regional office staff and the public health review of hazardous waste sites and chemical exposure concerns in the Mid-Atlantic region, and sustaining and enhancing relationships with Federal, state, and local public health and environmental partners in DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, and WV. We work frequently on situations with chemically contaminated private well supplies in our region, and have made a special emphasis area promoting the value of private well monitoring.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.