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Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 10:27am

Water Worries: Georgia Wells Show Signs of Potential Trouble

Nearly two million Georgians in rural parts of the state get their water from private wells. Sometimes, that poses a serious risk.

The Georgia Department of Public Health says that in its most recent tests, 23 percent of the wells it checked showed signs of potential trouble.

Chris Rustin is Director of the Environmental Health Section of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“You should get your well tested to make sure that number one, your water’s safe to drink,” Rustin told GPB’s On The Story. “ It will establish a base line for you and it’s recommended that you test your well at least once a year for bacteria and every three years for chemicals.”

The tests came back positive for coliform, which can get in from septic systems or from livestock that are too close to the well. It’s an “indicator bacteria” of other possible problems, like e-coli, which can attack the human digestive system.

In southern Georgia, many wells test positive for traces of naturally occurring arsenic, which poses health risks when consumed over many years.

Rustin has advice for Georgians whose wells test positive for contamination.

“Don’t panic, because there’s things you can do. Number one, if you have bacteria in your well, first thing you want to do is assess the well, figure out why it’s getting in there, why the surface water’s getting in your well, fix those problems. Then you can chlorinate the well, which cleans the well out, just like when you shock treat a swimming pool, you shock treat your well.”

Filters may be another option. Well testing is fairly inexpensive, costing about $30. There is a toll-free number: 1-800-ASK-UGA-1.