Nacogdoches County private water well screening advised

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Private water well screenings have been extended through Thursday at 2 p.m. . After well owners learn what has been found in samples at other screenings, they may become the first in line at the Nacogdoches County AgriLife Extension Office. They'll also benefit from a presentation on water well safety to be given at 6:30 at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse Annex.

John Smith travels the state screening water samples from private wells. He's looking for several not so nice sounding contaminants.

"We screen for fecal coliform, salinity, and nitrate," said Smith, a Texas AgriLife Extension Program Specialist.

Smith estimates during the last three years the Texas Well Owner Network has analyzed over 12,000 samples of well water in 185 counties.

"We have over a million wells here in the state of Texas that are privately owned." Six percent of Texans use a private water well as their primary source of drinking water.

Private water well owners are usually disturbed by what Smith finds.

"We would expect 20-30% of the wells that we test today to be susceptible to fecal coliform," said Smith.

Some isn't bad. Too much is dangerous. It gets there all sorts of ways. A power point image provides one clue.

"See the rat down there in the bottom of the well," pointed out Smith.

Other ways include septic tanks too close to the well and cracked well casings. Why, even the family dog can be held responsible.

"Each year 4.4 billion, with a 'B', pounds of dog manure are produced in our state," shared Smith. That's equivalent to 9 football fields. If another image is needed, 23 million contaminants can be found in a dollar size portion of Fido's waste.

Get the point. You want to make sure your well water is safe.

"There's no federal regulation for private water well supplies," said Smith. "It's the responsibility of the well owner to check for water quality."

Smith screens for excessive levels of nitrate and salt, but politely avoided the connection oil and gas drilling may have on water wells. It's certainly something on the minds of East Texas water well users.

"If you don't have gas you're not going to go anywhere, but if you don't have water you're not going to live," said private well water user Randy Horn.

East Texans are obtaining free water wells left at drilling sites on their property, but are told testing is important.

Experts advise all private water wells should be tested annually.

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