239073 Well Water Safety: A Study in Public Awareness and Testing Practices

Monday, October 31, 2011

Griffin Boll , University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Naiara Barbosa , University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Chantell Hemsley , University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
John Hoyt , University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Michael Lahey , University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Razelle Hoffman-Contois, MS , Vermont Department of Health, Burlington, VT
William Bress, PhD , Vermont Department of Health, Burlington, VT
Thomas V. Delaney, PhD , Dept. of Pediatrics, UVM College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Jan K. Carney, MD MPH , Department of Medicine, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, VT
Introduction. Few studies have been competed about barriers to testing drinking water from private wells. Although 30-50% of Vermont citizens use private wells for drinking water, there is no state testing requirement, and private well users may be exposed to a variety of potential health hazards. Objectives. To assess: public awareness of possible drinking water contamination, testing habits of private well users, and barriers to testing. Methods. We developed a voluntary and anonymous survey, distributed at Department of Health offices across Vermont, and other locations in Chittenden County, VT. Results. 284 surveys were analyzed, including 127 individuals using private wells. 55% of private water users have never had their water tested; those who tested primarily tested for bacteria (76%) and lead/heavy metals (60%). 32% of respondents with less than bachelor's degree ever had their water tested, significantly less than those with more education (59%; p<0.01). Individuals with children in the household were less likely to test than those without children (35% vs. 61%; p=0.018). Those with private water sources were less likely to use bottled water, than those on a public source (p=0.03). Most common preferences for additional information included flyers (among respondents with less education) and internet (among respondents with more education). Conclusion. More testing of private wells is needed. Educational level plays a significant role in water testing, barriers to testing, and awareness of testing recommendations. Additional visible public education specifically using flyers and the internet is needed. Study results indicate education should focus on households with children.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Environmental health sciences
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Compare testing habits of private well users with public health recommendations 2. Analyze the relationship of education level to awareness, testing habits, and barriers to testing well water 3. Compare use of bottled water in individuals on public water supplies vs. private wells. 4. Identify target populations for public health education

Keywords: Drinking Water Quality, Public Health Education

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Involved in design, implementation, data collection, analysis, interpretation, writing and presentation.
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.