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Tennessee Observes National Ground Water Awareness Week March 10-16

Friday, March 08, 2013 | 08:17am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is joining the Tennessee Department of Health to encourage Tennesseans and private water well owners in the state to observe National Ground Water Awareness Week March 10-16.

Sponsored by the National Ground Water Association in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency, National Ground Water Awareness Week highlights the importance of the state’s underground water resources.  It also is designed to raise awareness among private water well owners on the importance of yearly testing and proper well maintenance to prevent illness.

“Tennesseans can do their part in promoting good stewardship of the state’s ground water by properly maintaining their home septic systems and any abandoned wells they own,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “Contamination of ground water can also be prevented by properly storing and disposing of hazardous household waste products such as gasoline, oil, paints and cleaning products.”

According to the Department of Health, at least three outbreaks of waterborne illness related to the consumption of water from a private well or spring have been investigated in Tennessee since 2007.  These outbreaks resulted in 16 persons becoming ill. Recommendations to well owners include testing private water supplies annually for bacteria and chemical contaminants. In some areas where karst or limestone geology predominates, filtration through the earth is not effective; continuous purifying treatment such as home filtration, distillers or chlorinating systems are often necessary for drinking water to be reliably free of contamination.

“Reliably clean water is a foundation for good population health and is responsible for many of the gains we’ve made in the last century in life quality and longevity,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH.  “For those who don’t have access to clean public water or choose to use their own wells, proper periodic testing and, if necessary, treatment of the water, can prevent significant illness, particularly for infants and those with medical conditions that might put them at higher risk for waterborne illness.”

The safety requirements for public drinking water systems do not apply to private wells, so it is the responsibility of private water well owners to ensure their water is safe from contaminants.

Tennessee contains beautiful streams, rivers and lakes, and protecting the state’s unseen ground water system also is important. Many Tennesseans rely on ground water from aquifers that supply private water wells. Regional aquifers are large bodies of hidden underground water and supply a substantial amount of the state’s public and private drinking water. In addition to private water wells, a large percentage of public systems in the state rely on ground water for its drinking water supply.

For more information on the readily available resources for well owners and drillers, please visit the Division of Water Resource’s site at: www.tn.gov/environment/dws.  For questions about ground water protection, contact the division at (615) 532-0191 or e-mail water.supply@tn.gov.    

Information about National Ground Water Awareness Week can also be found at www.ngwa.org.

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