Water pollution a concern for private wells in Dallas County

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Out of 1,154 known drilled wells in Dallas County, 295 are currently in use as private wells for drinking water.[wpedon id=”85410″ align=”left”]

According to Ted Trewin of the Dallas County Environmental Health Services — a part of the Dallas County Public Health Department — there is no law requiring inspection of private wells, but Environmental Health Services can help private well owners arrange an inspection.

Trewin said there is grant money available if the property owner is not able to afford the cost of testing a water sample with a certified lab. More information about private wells is available at the Iowa Department of Public Health website.

One of the functions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to regulate the percentage of contaminants allowed in public water. There are exact specifications on the miniscule amounts of impurities the EPA will accept, based on both cancer-causing and non-cancer-causing particles that occur in water.

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 first established minimum health and safety standards for public water.

Here in Iowa, a water quality bill passed in January that will help farmers pay for planting cover crops and installing bioreactors and saturated buffers. At this point, 16 projects are underway in nine priority watersheds, including the headwaters of the Raccoon River, one of two sources of drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa residents.

It will be important to farmers and all consumers of drinking water to know whether their efforts to reduce wter pollution are making a difference. Like any attempt to make improvements, it won’t be sufficient simply to report the number of acres planted to cover crops.

With the rapid increase of homes built in unincorporated areas of the county, there are many more septic systems, a total of 5,294 on record. According to Dallas County Environmental Health, 1,205 of these are of the type that require regular maintenance, such as multi-flow systems. Other types include sand and wetland, holding tanks and lateral fields.

Chapter 69 of the Iowa Code specifies required maintenance checks either once or twice yearly. Private septic inspection companies charge a fee for these checks. Contact Ted Trewin at 515-993-3750 for options on companies that are certified to perform septic system inspections.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department. Ted Trewin is the director of the Dallas County Environmental Health Services.

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