Evaluation of household water quality in Buckingham, Cumberland and Nelson counties

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Virginia Cooperative Extension


During Fall 1998 in Buckingham, Cumberland, and Nelson 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 three counties who utilized a private, individual water supply. During the course of the projects, 238 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 three counties as iron/manganese, corrosivity, and bacteria. Additionally, a number of samples were determined to have concentrations of nitrate high enough to possibly lead to health complications for at-risk segments of the population.

Following completion of the programs, a survey was mailed to the 238 participants. Ninety-one 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 four-fifths 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, contact a state agency for assistance or additional information, and shock chlorinate the water system.