Dartmouth Study Aims to Improve Well Water Safety in NH

Dartmouth received a $93,000 grant to determine how often well owners in NH test their drinking water and what factors keep those owners from testing more often.

May 6, 2014

Dartmouth received a $93,000 grant to determine what proportion of households with private wells in New Hampshire test their drinking water and what factors keep some households from testing more often. “We want to learn how to empower well-water users with the tools and information they need to keep their drinking water safe for themselves and their families,” says project leader and Dartmouth engineering professor Mark Borsuk.

The project is in line with one of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) messages for National Drinking Water Week, May 4th–10th. EPA states, "Safe drinking water relies on all of us. Do your part to be informed, observant, involved and protective!"

Clean drinking water

Close to 40% of NH’s 1.3 million people use private wells for drinking water, and approximately one in five of those wells contain unsafe levels of arsenic—a naturally occurring element in the rocks of NH that, even at low doses, has been associated with skin, bladder, and lung cancers, and other harmful health effects.

Dartmouth’s funding is a sub-award from the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) given to members of the Community Engagement and Research Translation Cores of the Dartmouth Superfund Research Program. DES received the original grant in 2013 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess and manage risks associated with exposure to arsenic in wells.

The award will be used to survey NH’s private well-water users not only to determine water testing and treatment rates but also to identify the major factors limiting that testing and treatment. Results will be analyzed and used to help design cost-effective, targeted initiatives to help well-users protect their drinking water.

The online survey is open to all NH well-water users. However, in May, a random selection of approximately 4,000 of those users will receive postcards specifically inviting them to fill it out. Anyone completing the survey will be eligible for a chance to win a brand new iPad. "We hope the raffle will provide a little extra incentive to participate in this important study," added Borsuk.

“Arsenic in private wells is a significant public health issue in New Hampshire," commented NH DES Commissioner Thomas Burack. "DES is very pleased to be working with Dartmouth both to better understand the magnitude of the health impact and to find more effective ways to help well users protect their health."

Dartmouth’s Superfund Research Program has been examining the health effects of arsenic for the last 17 years with funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program. The Community Engagement and Research Translation Cores are charged with engaging communities to learn what they need to protect public health and with facilitating the application of research results by related stakeholders.

This project was supported by the Cooperative Agreement 1U53EH001110-01 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.