CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 384-4638
Release: May 8, 2002
NOTE TO EDITORS: May 5-11 is National Drinking Water Week. To contact Michael
Wichman, call (319) 335-4479. To contact Peter Weyer, call (319) 335-4014.
For additional sources, contact David Pedersen at (319) 335-8032.
UI researchers to lead statewide study of drinking water quality
University of Iowa researchers, along with county, state and federal agencies,
will begin a statewide study of drinking water quality in Iowa communities
without public water supply systems.
The study includes approximately 60 Iowa communities that use private wells
as their sole drinking water source. Researchers will monitor the wells to
assess exposure to water contaminants that may increase the risk for adverse
health effects, assess the probability for well contamination and increase
community awareness statewide about water contaminants through a public communications
Communities that only use private wells for their drinking water are not
required to monitor for contaminants specified by the Safe Drinking Water
Act for communities with municipal or other public water systems.
"We believe that there is a definite need to assess the well water quality
in communities that utilize only private wells and are not protected by the
Safe Drinking Water Act," said Michael Wichman, Ph.D., water quality
program manager for the UI Hygienic Laboratory and one of the study's researchers.
Residents of communities that use private wells rather than central public
water supplies may be at risk of consuming contaminated drinking water through
the surface or sub-surface contamination of wells. Some of these wells may
contain trace amounts of petroleum products, agricultural chemicals and other
"Data on drinking water quality in Iowa communities that only use private
wells is limited," said Peter Weyer, Ph.D., associate director of the
UI Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC) and another
of the study's researchers.
The study will have two components. Researchers will sample 134 private wells
in 16 incorporated Iowa communities that have been identified as having a
number of possible nearby sources of contamination. Water samples will also
be collected from 120 private well locations randomly chosen from approximately
60 incorporated communities around the state. The research team will analyze
water samples for bacteria, nitrate and other inorganic compounds, metals,
herbicides and insecticides, and other synthetic organic compounds. Both study
components will include periodic sampling of wells; local county environmental
health departments will collect the water samples and gather information about
the how the wells were constructed.
The research team will gather and review available computerized data on the
location and number of nearby contaminant sources and factors that may impact
well water quality in these communities. Efforts to raise public awareness
about potential health risks related to groundwater issues include a project
Web site, progress reports and educational materials, and regional meetings
to inform the public about study results.
The results may be used to determine the general vulnerability of private
wells across Iowa and help identify problematic regions and need for additional
The 15-month, $250,000 multi-agency study is being conducted by the UI Hygienic
Laboratory, CHEEC, the UI Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, Iowa
Ambient Water Monitoring Program, IDNR Water Supply Section and the U.S. Geological