Evaluation of household water quality in Richmond and Westmoreland Counties, Virginia

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Virginia Cooperative Extension


During Spring 1998 in Richmond and Westmoreland 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, 135 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, corrosivity, and bacteria. Additionally, a number of samples were determined to have concentrations of sodium and nitrate high enough to possibly lead to health complications for at-risk segments of the population.

After the completion of the general water testing program, water supplies from 7 households were resampled for the testing of 23 pesticides and other chemical compounds. None of the samples had a concentration of any of these contaminants exceeding EPA Health Advisory of Maximum Contaminant Levels. Furthermore, a total of only four detections were observed, all of which were trifluralin.

Following completion of the programs, a survey was mailed to the 135 participants. Forty 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. More than one-half 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: use bottled water for drinking/cooking and shock chlorinate the water system.