There's something in the water - part four

POSTED: Friday, April 1, 2011 - 3:06pm

UPDATED: Friday, April 1, 2011 - 4:39pm

We continue our investigation into safe drinking water Friday with advice from experts on how to find out what is in your water.

The people of Saint Landry Parish say they were shocked when their well water tested positive for arsenic in February. The wells had been tested before and passed. But this was the first time the water was screened specifically for arsenic.

Faye Hunt moved to that rural stretch of St. Landry Parish between Krotz Springs and Melville more than two decades ago. Before moving in, she had her private well tested.

“That’s what was approved when we moved out here. We had no knowledge that 20 years down the road it would be arsenic or other things in the water,” she says.

Hunt and her nearly 200 neighbors have been fighting for a permanent source of clean drinking water ever since.

Paul Burleigh says the fight is taking its toll. “Quite a few times we thought we done had the water and then it turns out somebody put a kink in it,” says Burleigh, “so we had to start all over again.”

If you think something like that can’t happen to you, think again.

"For years people have been very content to drink out of wells without really knowing what is there,” says Dr. LuAnn White, PhD.

Dr. White is one of the top toxicologists in the state. She teaches public health at Tulane University. She says, if your drinking water comes from a well, you should have the water tested, to be sure it is safe.

“Arsenic is certainly a naturally occurring element but there are other things that can be in well water,” explains Dr. White.

Bacteria, mercury and chemicals can all contaminate well water. If you’re on a public well or water system, the water is tested regularly to make sure it’s safe.

We took a look at all 65 wells maintained by the Baton Rouge Water Company and found they are in the clear. But if you’re drinking from a private well, testing and maintenance are up to you.

“We do see a lot of improperly maintained wells in the state,” says Jake Causey, Chief Engineer with the Department of Health and Hospital’s Safe Drinking Water Program. “It's, you know, set it and forget it.”

Causey says some common problems can put your health at risk.

“Don’t store chemicals, you know, fuel and other things around your well; gasoline can actually leach through PVC,” says Causey. “The casings that come out of the ground, those should be sealed to prevent rain water, insects, rodents, other things from entering your well.”

For more tips from DHH to make sure your water is clean, go to http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/?ID=204.

For a list of labs certified by DHH to test for well water contamination, go to http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov/offices/page.asp?id=250&detail=8332.

Those tests range in price from $25 to $25 dollars.
 

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