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    NH Home Inspector


    Monthly Newsletters

    Welcome to our newsletters, where we’ll share important information about our industry and drinking water news from around the world each month! In these newsletters, we’ll offer helpful information on wells and drinking water safety that you can use for yourself, clients or your community. Feel free to share with your friends and colleagues.  

    2018               2019

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    Study: Some Cancer Cases Could be Avoided Through Water Treatment 

    Some 20 percent of private NH wells have elevated arsenic levels

    Posted: Friday, October 10, 2014 12:15 am

    By Jo-Anne MacKenzie Eagle-Tribune

    CONCORD — Hundreds of cases of cancer could be avoided if more New Hampshire residents tested — and treated — their private wells, according to a new study.

    Some 46 percent of N.H. households get their drinking water from a private well, according to Paul Susca, a supervisor in the Department of Environmental Services drinking water division. Ninety percent of those wells are bedrock wells, which is where the arsenic is found.

    Maine and New Hampshire rank highest nationally in the percentage of residents who use private wells, he said.

    About one in five — some 20 percent — of private wells in New Hampshire have elevated levels of arsenic, according to NHDES Commissioner Thomas Burack.

    Arsenic is considered a Class 1 carcinogen. It's long been known that there's a high incident of arsenic in many private wells, particularly in Rockingham, Merrimack, Strafford and Hillsborough counties. As many as 41,000 people in those four counties alone may be drinking water with arsenic levels higher than the EPA standard, the study says.

    But there's a problem just as significant as the arsenic levels — getting residents to have their well water tested and then doing something about it if arsenic or other contaminants are found. Although radon is even more commonly occurring, Susca said, this study only looked at arsenic.

    Dartmouth College did the report for NHDES and the state Department of Health and Human Services. The reporters held focus group meetings with residents of four towns, including Londonderry, each with a high number of private wells, all in areas with relatively high arsenic levels and all with a high percentage of children.

    The experts found many residents associated contaminants in water with taste, smell or appearance, none of which hold true for arsenic, radon and many other contaminants.

    There appeared to be a significant lack of knowledge among residents about water testing standards, according to the report. Those who did have their water tested often stopped there, the study showed, either because the results were tough to interpret or because they thought the cost of treatment would be prohibitive.

    But, Susca said, cost ought not to be a factor.

    "In most cases, people can use a point-of-use, under-the-sink kind of system to treat arsenic at levels that commonly occur," he said. "It's not a hazard for skin exposure, it's the consumption, including cooking, so you only need to treat water you're consuming."

    He said a typical under-the-sink system costs "hundred of dollars."

    Officials don't have a firm grasp on the percentage of residents who use well water who have their water tested, Susca said, although a survey to get that number is underway.

    Those conducting the study surveyed — or tried to — thousands of households with private wells. But the response rate was just about 3 percent.

    Of those who did respond, 82 percent always or frequently drink tap water, according to the report.

    The risk of consuming untreated well water with high levels or arsenic is significant. The study estimates of 688 cases of cancer among residents with arsenic-contaminated well water, 451 cases could be avoided if the water were treated for elevated arsenic levels.

    Chronic arsenic exposure potentially leads to bladder and lung cancer. The state's rate of bladder cancer is the highest in the country at 29.7 cases per 100,000, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

    That statistic can't be entirely attributed to arsenic in well water, the study reports, but it's noteworthy that Maine ranks second for bladder cancer incidence and also has high levels of arsenic in its groundwater.

    The study authors recommend improved communication about the importance of well water testing, testing events and campaigns in targeted towns as a next step.

    "We want to emphasize that people should test their wells and do something about it if (arsenic) is at an elevated level," Susca said.

    The NHDES is working to develop an online tool that would allow residents to plug in their test results and get recommendations for treatment. That's expected to roll out in the first half of 2015. 

    In the meantime, he said, people should have their water tested and if it needs treatment, consult several water treatment vendors. 

    There's a lot of information available at


    Well-Water for 80,000 New Hampshire Residents May contain Metals Exceeding Human Health Standards

    Released: 6/16/2014 9:00:00 AM

    Contact Information:
    U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
    Office of Communications and Publishing
    12201 Sunrise Valley Dr, MS 119
    Reston, VA 20192

    Joe Ayotte 1-click interview
    Phone: 603-226-7810

    Sarah M.  Flanagan 1-click interview
    Phone: 603-340-3896


    PEMBROKE, N.H.--Nearly three-in-ten well-water samples tested from southeast New Hampshire contained metals at concentrations that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standards and guidelines, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study.

    Researchers sampled water from 232 private bedrock wells from 2012 to 2013, testing for levels of arsenic, uranium, manganese, iron and lead.

    “Our study showed that a significant percentage of the population that relies on domestic bedrock wells may have drinking water with arsenic, lead, manganese, and (or) uranium concentrations greater than human-health standards established by the EPA for public-water systems,” said hydrologist Sarah Flanagan, lead author of the study.

    Based on the number of private wells in the study area and results from the wells that were sampled it is estimated that:

    • 49,700 people in Hillsborough, Rockingham, and Strafford counties may use drinking water from bedrock wells with arsenic concentrations greater than the maximum contaminant level of 10 micrograms per liter. These results are similar to earlier studies that looked at arsenic in private wells in New Hampshire;
    • 7,500 people may use drinking water with uranium concentrations greater than the MCL of 30 micrograms per liter;
    • 14,900 people may use drinking water with manganese concentrations greater than the EPA Lifetime Health Advisory of 300 micrograms per liter;
    • 8,600 people may have drinking water with lead concentrations greater than 15 micrograms per liter.

    “This report provides citizens who rely on private wells with important updated information so they can make informed decisions about how to manage and test their drinking water wells, and ultimately how to best protect their families’ health,” said Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of the EPA’s New England office. “Drinking water from private wells is not regulated under federal law, which means that private wells are often not regularly sampled for contamination unless individual well owners choose to do so.”

    The EPA’s maximum contaminant levels in public water supplies are 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic, and 30 micrograms per liter for uranium. The EPA has a Lifetime Health Advisory (147 KB PDF) level of 300 micrograms per liter for manganese. For lead, the EPA requires that public water suppliers notify customers when lead exceeds 15 micrograms per liter and implement corrective actions to control corrosion of pipes and plumbing fixtures.

    While low levels of naturally-occurring metals is normal in groundwater, in this study 17.2 percent of the water samples exceeded the arsenic MCL of 10 micrograms per liter, 2.6 percent of the water samples exceeded the uranium MCL of 30 micrograms per liter, 5.2 percent of the water samples exceeded the manganese LHA of 300 micrograms per liter, and 3 percent of the water samples exceeded 15 micrograms per liter for lead.

    “For individual households, the likelihood of having high arsenic, manganese, or uranium concentrations depends on the types of rocks that the well is drilled into,” said Flanagan.  “We know that certain rocks in certain areas are more likely to have higher levels of arsenic or uranium. The likelihood of having high lead concentrations might depend more on the corrosiveness of the water and the plumbing system within the home.”

    The Fact Sheet and supporting data for this study, done in cooperation with EPA New England, are available online.


    Homeowners Are Encouraged to Test Their Well Water

    Londonderry Times  March 27th, 2014  Jay Hobson

    The state is interested in learning whether well water users understand it is their responsibility to test their water, and how to encourage them to do so.

    Michael Paul, Community Engagement coordinator with the Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program and the Audrey and Theodore Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Hanover, held a focus group in Londonderry last week to discuss what people who get their water from private wells should know. He said it is the homeowner’s responsibility to test their water to ensure it is safe, and to treat it if it contains unsafe levels of contaminants, including arsenic, which is prevalent in southern New Hampshire.

    According to a U.S. Geological Survey model, Londonderry is a town with high arsenic levels in its well water, Paul said.

    The meeting in Londonderry focused on what questions to ask well users in a survey that will be mailed to about 4,000 New Hampshire residents.

    Paul said Londonderry was chosen as one of the four focus group locations because it has one of the highest amount of well water users in the state.

    “Londonderry was chosen because it has a relatively high number of private wells, is a town with high arsenic levels according to a U.S. Geological Survey model and it has a relatively high percentage of children relative to other New Hampshire towns,” Paul said.

    Paul said the ultimate goal of the project is to improve public health.

    “There were a couple of people that mentioned previous studies that were done that showed that there is a higher than average arsenic content in Londonderry,” said Town Manager Kevin Smith, who attended the focus group. “That being said, levels aren’t so high as to be an immediate threat to public health.”

    Resident Mike Speltz explained the Dartmouth staff  “have been tasked to find a reliable way to assess New Hampshire’s residents, their understanding of well water and how to maintain it as far as having it tested, knowing how frequently to test it and what it should be tested for, generally trying to assess their knowledge of how to take care of a well. They are trying to develop a survey and they want to make sure they are asking the right questions.

    “There were a few good things that came out of it,” he said of the meeting. “The building department will probably be making a little more information on wells available.

    “Knowing that Londonderry has more wells per capita than anywhere else in the state, it makes it more important that we redouble our efforts in protecting our landscape,” Speltz said. “We have hot spots of arsenic in Londonderry, but so do other towns. It is a common contaminant in Southern New Hampshire.”

    Paul said the focus group is a way “to test the concepts and assumptions forming the basis of our survey questions. Are there demographic factors that might be expected to correspond with treatment and testing rates? Are we capturing the most important thoughts, ideas, and experiences residents have related to arsenic awareness, testing, and treatment? Are our survey questions clear and the possible answer choices appropriate? What steps can we take to ensure that people respond to our survey? We see the focus groups as a key step in developing a successful survey.

     “The results will be used to increase public awareness about arsenic and other potential drinking water contaminants and their potential health effects, promote water testing, revise current public health messages about water testing and treatment, encourage appropriate protective responses for households that receive unhealthy water test results, and educate local health officials and health care providers in high-risk areas about their messages to citizens and patients,” Paul explained.

    Paul said a contract exists with the State Department of Environmental Services (DES) to conduct a survey of New Hampshire residents who obtain water from a well.

    “With the survey data we will estimate statewide rates of well water testing and treatment for arsenic; assess the importance of a variety of factors influencing the rate of water testing and treatment; evaluate the effectiveness of the DES flier in encouraging water testing; identify subpopulations that are less likely to test and treat their water; determine the types and maintenance of water treatment systems being used; estimate statewide exposure to well water arsenic and associated health risks and design and test intervention strategies to overcome identified barriers to testing and treatment.

    “The important thing to get across is that people who have wells are responsible for testing their water,” Paul said. “Some people test when they buy the house and it’s never tested again until they sell, but it is very important for people to test frequently so they know what is in the water they are drinking and using.”

    According to a DES fact sheet on arsenic in well water, wells drilled into New Hampshire’s bedrock fractures have about a one in five probability of containing naturally occurring arsenic above 10 parts per billion. Arsenic in water has no color or odor, even at elevated levels; the only way to determine the arsenic level in well water is by testing.

    Detailed information about arsenic in well water, including how to obtain well testing kits for arsenic, is available on the DES website at

    The federal Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate private wells or require states to do so.


    NH Officials Urge Well Owners to Test their Water

    Groundwater Awareness Week starts Sunday

    Published  9:05 AM EDT Mar 09, 2014    WMUR

    CONCORD, N.H. —Officials at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services are urging everyone who has a private well to test their drinking water for contaminants.
    March 9-15 is Groundwater Awareness Week in the Granite State.
    Environmental officials say more than 40 percent of New Hampshire residents get their drinking water from private wells. They say many of those wells have unhealthy levels of naturally-occurring arsenic, radon, or other contaminants.
    Those contaminants cannot be detected by taste or smell, so testing is the only way to determine if they are present and in what concentrations.
    Officials recommend that well owners have their water tested every three to five years by an accredited lab.
    The DES website lists accredited laboratories at

    Read more: