• 5. Talk With Local Experts

Good sources of information and advice can be found close to home. The list below tells about some "local experts":

  • The local health department's registered "sanitarian" is a health specialist. He or she likely knows the most about any problems with private wells.

  • Local water-well contractors can tell you about well drilling and construction. They are also familiar with local geology and water conditions. Look in the yellow pages of your phone book or contact the agency in your State that licenses water well contractors. Call the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) at (614) 898-7791 or (800) 5517379 to find NGWA-certified water well contractors in your area. Officials at the nearest public water system may explain any threats to local drinking water and may be developing plans to address potential threats. They may advise you on taking samples and understanding tests done on your water. Ask the local health department or look in your phone book for the name and address of the closest system. Local county extension agents will know about local farming and forestry activities that can affect your water. They may also have information about water testing.

  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) replaced the old U.S. Soil Conservation Service. It is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The NRCS and the U.S. Geological Survey have information about local soils and ground water. They can tell you where a local water supply is located and how it is recharged or replenished. They would know of any pollution threats and if radon is a problem in the area. Look for both in the blue pages of your local phone book. Local or county planning commissions can be good sources. They know about past and present land uses in your area that affect water. Your public library may also have records and maps that can provide useful information. Nearby colleges and universities have research arms that can provide facts and expertise. They may also have a testing lab.

  • 6. Fix Problems Immediately

If you find that your well water is polluted, fix the problem as soon as possible. You may need to disinfect your water, have a new well drilled, re-plumb or repair your system. Consider hooking into a nearby community water system (if one is available). If you have a new well drilled or connect to a community water system, the old well must be closed properly. Consult "local experts" for help. You might consider installing a water treatment device to remove impurities. Information about treatment devices can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Water Quality Association
    P.O. Box 606
    4151 Naperville Road
    Lisle, IL 60532

  • National Sanitation Foundation
    P.O. Box 130140
    789 N Dixboro Road
    Ann Arbor, MI 48113-0140
    (734) 769-8010, (800) NSF-MARK

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (to visit in person)

  • Office of Water Resource Center
    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Ariel Rios Building
    Washington, DC 20460
    Phone: (202) 260-7786
    Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays, 8:30AM - 4:30PM ET

      There are many home water treatment devices. Different types remove different pollutants or impurities. No one device does it all. Also, you must carefully maintain your home treatment device so your water stays safe.

  • Find Out More

To find out more about your watershed and its ground water visit "Surf Your Watershed" at www.epa.gov/surf. Also look at the "Index of Watershed Indicators" at www.epa.gov/iwi. These websites can also tell you possible sources of problems. Companies with permits to release their wastewaters in your area are listed. You can see if they meet pollution control laws. You can also learn how your watershed compares to others in the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA support a program to help farmers, ranchers and rural homeowners. Called Farm*A*Syst or Home*A*Syst, it helps identify and solve environmental problems, including protecting drinking water. Obtain a copy of the Home*A*Syst questionnaire/checklist that can help you find possible threats to your water supply from:

  • National Farm A Syst - Home A Syst Program
    303 Hiram Smith Hall
    1545 Observatory Drive
    Madison, WI 53706
    Ph: 608.262.0024    Fax: 608.265.2775

For more information on current and future Federal drinking water standards and for general information on drinking water topics and issues, contact the EP A at www.epa.gov/safewater or at:

  • U .S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water
    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20460

Or call:

  • The Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791

  • The hotline operates from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM (EST)

  • The hotline can be accessed on the Internet at


You can get a list of Federal drinking water standards from the EPA website. In addition, the EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water gives chemical and health risk information for a number of drinking water problems through its Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791. This information is also on the internet at www.epa.gov/safewater. If you do not have a computer, most public libraries offer internet access. Even though Federal standards do not apply to household wells, you can use them as a guide to potential problems in your water. Be aware that many states have their own drinking water standards. Some are stricter than the Federal rules. To get your State standards, contact your State drinking water program or local health department.

Other sources of information include:

(See Drinking Water Glossary at end of book)