Please click on the link and take a minute to read the attached article.
What is groundwater and why is it important to me?
More than two million Marylanders obtain their water from groundwater. Groundwater is created from rain that soaks into the ground, which absorbs it like a sponge. It is a natural resource that is used for drinking, household purposes, irrigation, business and industry needs.
Water that soaks into the ground is filtered as it passes through various layers of sand, clay or rock, before discharging to streams, rivers or the Chesapeake Bay. Too often groundwater is taken for granted because it cannot be seen.
Groundwater is vulnerable to pollution by livestock areas, abandoned mines, salted roads, farming and industrial areas. Homeowners also contribute to groundwater contamination by dumping household chemicals down the drain if they have a septic system or by pouring them on the ground.
Groundwater contaminated with bacteria, chemicals, pesticides, gasoline, or oil can result in serious human health problems. Those who consume contaminated groundwater may suffer bacterial diseases, nervous system disorders, liver or kidney failure, cancer or other ailments depending on the contamination.
To protect groundwater be proactive in the upkeep of your home and yard:
- Limit the amount of fertilizer used on plants.
- If you own a septic system, service it according to local health department or manufacturer recommendations.
- If you own a water well, get a yearly maintenance check to ensure sanitary seals are intact.
- Consider having your water tested every couple of years or if you notice a change in color, odor or taste.
- Check for leaky faucets and have them fixed.
To protect groundwater make simple changes to your everyday activities:
- Take shorter showers.
- Shut off water when brushing your teeth.
- Run full loads of dishes and laundry.
- Properly store hazardous household substances like paints, paint thinners, petroleum products, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and cleaning products in secure containers and do not empty hazardous household waste down the drain or the toilet.
- Mix hazardous household substances over concrete or asphalt where they can be cleaned up or absorbed.
Addtional Information and Related Links:
John Boris, Geologist, 410-537-3678 or John.Boris@maryland.gov
Nitrate in water is undetectable without testing because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. A water test for nitrate is highly recommended for households with infants, pregnant women, nursing mothers, or elderly people. These groups are the most susceptible to nitrate or nitrite contamination. Nitrate-nitrogen occurs naturally in groundwater, usually at concentrations far below a level of concern for drinking water safety. An initial test of a new water supply is needed to determine the baseline nitrate concentration. Therefore, if the water supply has never been tested for nitrate, it should be tested.
In addition to testing for Nitrates you may also want to test for Bacteria. Bacteriological contamination in water may contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to the presence of nitrate. All drinking water sources also should be tested for bacteriological contamination, particularly if the nitrate-nitrogen level exceeds the 10 mg/L standard. The presence of both nitrate and bacteriological contamination may indicate a poor well location or construction, and possible contamination from surface drainage, feedlots, sewage systems, or some other source.
If you have any questions, or concern about Bacti or Nitrates in your well water, please feel free to give us a call at 301-293-3340.
Cloudy, murky or grayish water is usually caused by dissolved or suspended solids. This is also known as “turbidity.” Water can become turbid naturally or from land disturbances such as construction, storms and urban runoff.
The turbidity of your water can range from low to high. But even if your water looks clear, it could still contain a high level of dissolved solids. That’s why, whether your water is turbid or not, we recommend you have it tested.
Fredericktowne Labs can test your water and give you an answer.
Protecting Your Ground Water Supply
When Building, Modifying Or Closing A Well
• Hire a certified well driller for any new well construction or modification
• Slope well area so surface runoff drains away
• When closing a well:
– Do not cut off the well casing below the land surface
– Hire a certified well contractor to fill or seal the well
• Install a locking well cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of,
or entry into, the well
• Do not mix or use pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels, and
other pollutants near the well
• Never dispose of wastes in dry wells or in abandoned wells
• Pump and inspect septic systems as often as recommended by your local
• Never dispose of hazardous materials in a septic system
• Take care in working or mowing around your well
Maintaining Your Well
• Each month check visible parts of your system for problems such as:
– Cracking or corrosion,
– Broken or missing well cap,
– Settling and cracking of surface seals
• Have the well tested once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and other
• Keep accurate records in a safe place, including:
– Construction contract or report
– Maintenance records, such as disinfection or sediment removal
– Any use of chemicals in the well
– Water testing results
After A Flood — Concerns And Advisories
• Stay away from the well pump while flooded to avoid electric shock
• Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick
• Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and turn on the
• After the pump is turned back on, pump the well until the water runs clear
to rid the well of flood water
• If the water does not run clear, get advice from the county or state health
department or extension service
• For additional information go to http://www.epa.gov/safewater/consumer/
For More Info:
Check out the feature in Angie’s List!
What are you drinking? How to protect water quality at home
Samples of water to be tested at Fredericktowne Labs in their Myersville, Maryland, location. (Photo by Bill Green)
When he purchased his Catawba, North Carolina, home in May 2013, John Latz quickly determined that the well water consumed by the old farmhouse’s prior occupants wasn’t fit for his horses to drink.
“It was a horse farm where the previous owners started dumping manure near the well, and so the well had become contaminated with coliform bacteria,” he says. Though not likely to cause disease on its own, the bacteria serves as a red flag indicating that other disease-causing organisms, or pathogens, may be present.
Fortunately for Latz, the city had annexed the property in recent years, linking it to municipal water. He hired highly rated 3rd Rock Plumbing in Hickory, North Carolina, to pipe city water into his new home, in addition to doing other minor plumbing work like repairing a leaking toilet, for $675.
“When we found out the well was contaminated — which fed the drinking water in the house — we thought, ‘We can’t have that,’” Latz says. Today, he and his wife drink city water, as do their three horses. The couple uses water from the well, which 3rd Rock treated, to irrigate their property, for showers and for flushing toilets.
The relative safety of your water
By historical standards — and compared with developing countries — the water supply in the U.S., as elsewhere in the Western world, remains relatively safe, both for people drawing from private wells regularly tested by state certified labs and consumers who drink municipal water.
Still, concerns over drinking water safety continue to make headlines across the country. Problems range from widespread lead contamination in Washington, D.C., that risks health issues such as developmental problems in children, to a toxic spill in January that contaminated drinking water in Charleston, West Virginia. That led residents to switch to bottled water — and keep drinking it for months afterward.
“We’ve got a lot of chemicals and a lot of contaminants in our drinking water that are known carcinogens and that are also associated with other health problems,” says Alex Formuzis, spokesman for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.
Responses similarly span coast to coast. In April, the California Department of Public Health became the first in the country to adopt a water standard that limits the known cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, though critics say it doesn’t go far enough.
Chromium-6 found its most famous adversary in consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, and has been detected in samples taken from most of the largest U.S. cities’ water supplies. In New York, public officials have pledged to clean up Long Island’s polluted water amid research that found high levels of nitrogen in ground and surface water, which affect everything from wetlands to drinking water.
Some criticize municipalities and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for not doing more to protect drinking water and make it as safe as possible for human consumption. “My opinion is the standards aren’t strong enough,” says Andrew John Wilson, president of highly ratedAngel Water, a licensed plumbing company based in Barrington, Illinois, that specializes in water treatment.
But while cautioning against being alarmist — with contaminants typically found in trace amounts in water samples — experts say consumers can take steps in their homes to further protect the quality of the water pouring from the faucet. That’s true whether it’s treated and piped in by a utility or taken from an aquifer deep underground.
What you can do at home
Recommendations start with having samples of well water — a drinking source for approximately 15 percent, or more than 1 and 7 Americans, according to the EPA — tested every year or two by a state certified environmental testing lab. “It’s Mother Nature. She changes every day,” Wilson says. “That’s why the EPA, the Department of Health [local and state], they all recommend regular testing.”
Consider also testing for specific contaminants if you have concerns about drinking water supplied by a utility. “We don’t do the test, because the EPA says don’t trust the company that does both,” Wilson says. He advises similarly: Go to an independent lab, rather than relying on the same company to test your water that could also provide a fix should a problem arise, such as treating the well or adding a filtration system — a conflict of interest that could slant testing results.
A test for well water, such as to check for contaminants like coliform, runs about $300, Wilson says.
If you drink municipal water, you should receive an annual water quality report by July 1 of each year. This details where your water comes from and what’s in it, as required by the EPA, including any violations that indicate the presence of contaminants at levels higher than EPA-set maximums. Haven’t received it? “I would urge consumers to be in contact with their local water utilities every year and ask for the most recent water quality report,” Formuzis says. He suggests reviewing the information carefully.
Armed with that knowledge, you can take the next step in your kitchen.
“Filtering your water is always a good idea, no matter where you live in this country,” Formuzis says. “Contaminants are in tap water, even after they’ve gone through filtration and treatment through the local utility, so there’s an extra line of defense.”
Read more: How to keep your drinking water safe
Wilson, whose company sells water filtration systems, thinks that reverse osmosis systems — widely considered the most effective method for purifying water in homes — will become much more common.
“They’re going to be like microwaves — in every home,” Wilson says.
He bases that on an expectation that the increase in waste resulting from population growth in the U.S. will contribute to increased water contamination, and that advances in technology will allow experts to draw stronger conclusions on how such contaminants affect health, such as causing cancer. “The pesticides and herbicides we once thought were safe are no longer [considered] safe,” Wilson says. Similarly, he thinks future discoveries about contaminants will drive more people to filter their water at home. Costs to filter range drastically, depending on your method. Filters that go in the refrigerator can start at around $20, while reverse osmosis systems for the whole home can retail for $1,500 or more.
One expert’s unfiltered view
For her part, Mary Miller, founder of highly rated Fredericktowne Labs in Myersville, Maryland, seems less convinced of the need for filtration systems in every home. The state certified environmental testing laboratory routinely tests samples of water for homeowners. Most are on well, though some are municipal customers, too, looking to test for contaminants like lead. She also does work for commercial entities, municipal water treatment and wastewater treatment plants. Costs range from $24 to test for lead, $100 to test for trihalomethanes and $220 for haloacetic acids — disinfection byproducts that have chlorine in them.
The EPA deems THMs and HAAs safe for consumption at low levels. But some people who consume THMs at levels above the EPA-set maximum, over many years could experience liver, kidney or central nervous system problems and increased risk of cancer. Similarly, those who consume HAAs over many years at higher than allowed levels may face an increased cancer risk, the agency says.
Miller steadfastly defends municipal water, despite spot issues. That includes “astronomical” rates of lead — 10 to 20 times EPA-mandated limits — her lab found at a local school system. “The fact that levels were that high at a public school system to me were a concern. I’m not saying it did anybody any damage, but, yes, it was addressed and it was fixed,” she says. She declined to name the school system.
Generally speaking, Miller says what comes out of the tap remains safe for consumption. “Municipal water is just fine. It’s very, very tightly regulated,” she says. “It’s a perfectly fine source of drinking water.”
The EPA on the safety of drinking water
The EPA echoes that sentiment in a statement officials provided to Angie’s List: “Today, more than 290 million Americans depend on 50,000 public water systems across the country for safe, reliable water. EPA has set standards for more than 90 contaminants and 93 percent of the population supplied by public water systems receives drinking water that met all health-based standards all of the time.”
The agency does, however, note that some people may want to take extra precautions with their water and that, in particular, people with compromised immune systems weakened by AIDS, chemotherapy or transplant medications, are more vulnerable to microbial contaminants in drinking water. Such contaminants include a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestines of humans and animals called cryptosporidium. The parasite can sicken even healthy individuals. “For people with weakened immune systems, it can cause severe illness and even death,” the EPA says on its website.
The agency says those wishing to take extra precautions to avoid waterborne cryptosporidium can boil their water for a minute — the most effective means to kill the parasite — or alternatively install “point-of-use” filters or in-home water filters, or drink bottled water. The agency provides information on treating water at home on its website.
The danger inside old pipes
Miller and others highlight another potential source of drinking water contamination: metal pipes. In older homes, outdated plumbing infrastructure can deposit unsafe metal flecks into drinking water.
“Depending on the plumbing line [water] goes through, it can acquire lead which is a serious problem,” Miller says. “Lead is very bad, particularly for young children. It can interfere with their ability to learn. It could cause organ damage.”
Experts recommend homeowners test if concerned about lead contamination and replace lead pipes. “There’s no safe level of lead in our opinion and that of many others. Lead is highly toxic to the nervous system,” says Formuzis of the Environmental Working Group.
The smell test
Lead doesn’t make water look or taste any differently. But you may get a whiff of other potential dangers, like high levels of manganese. Though naturally occurring, research shows heavy doses of this mineral can undermine intellectual functioning in children. “Manganese is actually toxic [at high levels],” Miller says. She adds that it imparts a foul odor and taste.
She insists that homeowners should not ignore their gut when they have concerns. That’s true whether it’s old lead pipes bringing in city water to suspicions of contaminated well water. Follow up to remediate problems. “Even if it doesn’t make you sick, that doesn’t mean it can’t make someone else sick,” Miller says.
How to keep your drinking water safe
Drink responsibly by taking steps to ensure the water coming out of your faucet is safe, such as reviewing your utility’s annual water quality report or regularly testing well water. (Photo by Steve C. Mitchell)
As with lead paint in older homes, trace amounts of the metal in tap water can, over time, lead to developmental problems in children, and increase incidence of high blood pressure and compromise kidney function in adults. Radium in water can cause cancer. Even too much chlorine disinfectant applied to clean water supplies can irritate the nose and eyes and cause stomach discomfort.
But consumers needn’t feel powerless — or wholly rely on a utility or municipal water provider — to protect the quality of water coming into their homes.
Here’s what you can do:
Test your water
If you get your drinking water from a well, like more than 1 in 7 Americans, you should have it tested regularly by a state certified environmental testing lab to account for ever-changing conditions, including contaminants like coliform bacteria and nitrates, that can seep slowly through the soil into underground aquifers.
Experts recommend testing every year, or at least every other. Consider also testing for specific contaminants like lead if you have concerns about drinking water supplied by a utility — such as relating to recent Environmental Protection Agency violations or old plumbing infrastructure in your home (see the next and fourth tip).
Read your utility’s water quality report
Despite federal regulations that set limits on contaminant levels in drinking water, public systems routinely exceed these. Read up on any violations in your utility’s annual Consumer Confidence Report, also sometimes called the Water Quality Report. This EPA-mandated report should be mailed to your door by July 1 each year and detail ways in which your utility plans to fix any cited issues. But you needn’t wait if you don’t have it in hand.
“I would urge consumers … to contact their local utilities,” says Alex Formuzis, spokesman for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization. Request and review the report they provide each year, and pay attention to potential violations that indicate the presence of contaminants in drinking water at levels higher than EPA-set maximums, which can result in fines for a utility and added risk for water consumers.
Filter your water
Filtering water at home provides another line of defense against contaminants that past the local utility. Though some experts say it’s not necessary, many recommend this to homeowners to further protect water quality. Formuzis calls reverse-osmosis the “Cadillac” of in-home water purification technology. You can also buy filters at non-Cadillac prices that target specific contaminants that concern you. Shopping for a filter, but not sure what to get? Here’s an unbiased guide from EWG, which doesn’t sell filters.
Keep your home’s plumbing updated
Paint flecks aren’t the only carriers of the toxic metal in older homes. If you have lead pipes in your home, it’s past time to change those out. Lead from pipes can contaminate water, which can cause developmental problems in children and other issues, such as raising blood pressure and compromising kidney function in adults.
Replace corroded copper pipes as well, a major source of copper in drinking water. Long-term exposure to copper at levels that exceed EPA-mandated maximums for drinking water can cause liver or kidney damage.
Don’t poison the well — or reservoir
Go easy on the fertilizer and pesticides on your lawn, and take used oil or antifreeze to a service center or recycling station. As with industrial agriculture — a leading source of water pollution — chemicals applied to green the yard, and those that drip on the driveway, can seep into groundwater. This can ultimately go into lakes, rivers and streams from which we draw water. Over time, pollutants can sometimes seep into wells, too, despite being dug deep enough to avoid most issues that affect groundwater.
Don’t flush unused medications, either, which can further contribute to the trace amounts of pharmaceuticals that — along with medicines taken as directed and, ahem, naturally disposed of — can end up in drinking water. Experts debate if these trace amounts of drugs have an effect on health, but better safe than sorry.
Drink boiled or bottled water
At least temporarily.
When directed by local government or health authorities, follow all orders to boil water from the tap, or drink bottled water. Boil-water advisories typically go into effect in response to concerns about drinking water contamination, such as after a large main break or natural disaster.
To avoid getting sick, in the most extreme circumstances, consider making a change from tap to bottled water as many residents in Charleston, West Virginia, did after a toxic chemical spill in January.
Additional sourcing: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Check out the Blog on Frederick County Business Development and Retention website.
Six Questions with Mary Miller, Ph.D, Owner-President,
Fredericktowne Labs, Inc.
3020 Ventrie Ct. P.O. Box 245.
Myersville, MD. 21773
What is the nature of your business?
Meet and Greet with Frederick County Business Development and Retention.
A visit from David Dunn – County Commissioner Liaison, Sherman Coleman – Business Development Specialist, Paul Smith – VP, Board of Commissioners, David Gray -Frederick County Commissioner, Heather Gramm, Director, Regional Growth & Retention, Latrice Lewis – Business & Employment Consultant, Beth Woodring – Senior Consultant, SBTDC Network, Dr. Mary Miller -FTL, Karen Witcraft – FTL, Dan Staley – FTL
Information provided by: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/nitrite.cfm
EPA regulates nitrite in drinking water to protect public health. Nitrite may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by EPA.
- What is nitrite?
- Uses for nitrite.
- What are nitrite’s health effects?
- What are EPA’s drinking water regulations for nitrite?
- How does nitrite get into my drinking water?
- How will I know if nitrite is in my drinking water?
- How will nitrite be removed from my drinking water?
- How do I learn more about my drinking water?
If you are concerned about nitrate in a private well, please visit:
What are nitrite’s health effects?
Infants below six months who drink water containing nitrite in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome.
This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for nitrite. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with nitrite in drinking water when the rule was finalized.
What are EPA’s drinking water regulations for nitrite?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.
The MCLG for nitrite is 1 mg/L or 1 ppm. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for nitrite, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 1 mg/L or 1 ppm. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies. In this case, the MCL equals the MCLG, because analytical methods or treatment technology do not pose any limitation.
The Phase II Rule, the regulation for nitrite, became effective in 1992. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed nitrite as part of the Six Year Review and determined that the 1 mg/L or 1 ppm MCLG and 1 mg/L or 1 ppm MCL for nitrite are still protective of human health.
States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for nitrite than EPA.
A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.
- EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Web site provides information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals that are released each year to the air, water, and land.
How will I know if nitrite is in my drinking water?
When routine monitoring indicates that nitrite levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of nitrite so that it is below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 24 hours after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.
If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department or local water systems that use ground water for information on contaminants of concern in your area.
How do I learn more about my drinking water?
EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book’s government listings are a good starting point for local information.
Contact your water utility. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR) (sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year. If your water provider is not a community water system, or if you have a private water supply, request a copy from a nearby community water system.
- The CCR summarizes information regarding sources used (i.e., rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or aquifers), detected contaminants, compliance and educational information.
- Some water suppliers have posted their annual reports on EPA’s Web site.
Other EPA Web sites
Reasons to Test Your Water
The chart below will help you spot problems. The last five problems listed are not an immediate health concern, but they can make your water taste bad, may indicate problems, and could affect your well long term.
Conditions or Nearby Activities: Test for: Recurring gastro-intestinal illness Coliform bacteria Household plumbing contains lead pH, lead, copper Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich Radon Corrosion of pipes, plumbing Corrosion, pH, lead Nearby areas of intensive agriculture Nitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria Coal or other mining operations nearby Metals, pH, corrosion Gas drilling operations nearby Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-cleaning operation nearby Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks Volatile organic compounds Objectionable taste or smell Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry
Iron, copper, manganese
Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather Hardness Rapid wear of water treatment equipment pH, corrosion Water softener needed to treat hardness Manganese, iron Water appears cloudy, frothy, or colored Color, detergents