Evaluation of household water quality in Accomack and Northampton Counties, Virginia

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Virginia Cooperative Extension

During Fall1999 in Accomack and Northampton Counties, Virginia, programs of household water quality education, which included water sampling, testing, and diagnosis, were conducted. Participation in the water quality programs was made available to any resident of these two counties who utilized a private, individual water supply. During the course of the projects, 353 households submitted water samples which were analyzed for iron, manganese, hardness, sulfate, chloride, fluoride, total dissolved solids, pH, saturation index, copper, sodium, nitrate, and total coliform and E. coli bacteria. These analyses identified the major household water quality problems in these two counties as iron/manganese, total dissolved solids, and bacteria. Additionally, a number of samples were determined to have concentrations of sodium high enough to possibly lead to health complications for at-risk segments of the population.

Following completion of the program, a survey was mailed to the 353 participants. One hundred and ninety-seven participants returned survey forms on which they identified their reason(s) for participating in such a program; the primary reason was concern about safety of their water supply. Returned survey forms also provided insight into measures participants had already taken, or planned to take, to improve the quality of their water supply. Nearly two-thirds of the households who reported having at least one water quality problem had taken, or planned to take, at least one measure to improve the quality of their water supply. Ten percent or more of all participants had taken, or planned to take, one or more of the following actions: purchase or rent water treatment equipment, use bottled water drinking/cooking, and contact a state agency for further assistance.