By Sally Voth - firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Shenandoah Valley residents who rely on wells can see what may or may not be lurking in their water.
Cooperative extension offices are hosting drinking water clinics this spring and summer as part of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program.
"It's an in-depth analysis," Karen Poff, Shenandoah County senior extension agent for family and consumer sciences, said.
The clinics will start in Frederick County, with a "kick-off meeting" scheduled for 6 p.m. April 30 in the Executive Protection Systems events room, 161 Commonwealth Court, Winchester.
This will be followed by similar meetings: 6:30 p.m. June 18 at the VCE-Page County Office, community room, 215 W. Main St., Stanley; 6:30 p.m. June 19, Shenandoah County Government Center, board room, 600 N. Main St., Woodstock; and 6:30 p.m. June 16, Warren County Government Center, board room, 220 N. Commerce Ave., Front Royal.
At these meetings, residents will be given bottles to take water samples at home and instructions, Poff said. They'll bring the samples back, and those will be sent to a Virginia Tech lab, she said. Participants will get the results several weeks later.
"The results of their individual tests are confidential," Poff said. "There is a report, though, that's done by county that is an aggregated report."
The $45 fee involved is inexpensive, according to Karen Ridings, Poff's counterpart in Frederick County.
The samples will be tested for various substances, including coliform bacteria, E. coli, lead, arsenic, iron, fluoride, copper, sodium and hardness.
"Two things that we will be looking for [are] coliform bacteria and E. coli. In our region, in the Shenandoah Valley, a lot of folks are near agriculture and certainly [that could] affect their water quality," Ridings said.
Geology is another risk factor.
"We have a lot of limestone areas, and the ground water moves very quickly in these areas," Ridings said. "Testing for bacteria we recommend annually. Then, the other items we recommend every three years.
"It's amazing the number of people who have not tested their wells at all since moving into their households. Especially if you have a situation where you're having young children, or someone who's newly pregnant, you would certainly want to get your water tested."
Also, if family members are having frequent gastrointestinal issues, that could be a sign of a water problem, she said.
"The other purpose of the clinic is to teach people how to maintain their wells," Ridings said. "It's really helpful, I think, and it's very inexpensive. It's just something important for people to do to keep their family healthy."