ADH Issues Private Well Water Testing Guidance for Two Counties

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is issuing private well water testing guidance for homeowners in Benton and Phillips counties.

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) works with public water systems to regulate drinking water. The ADH monitors public drinking water systems for contaminants and follows up with systems to address any issues that are detected in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. A few public water systems that have well water as their source in both Benton and Phillips counties have had levels of cyanide detected in water that are slightly above federal drinking water limits. Those systems are taking appropriate follow-up actions. It is not uncommon to detect cyanide at low levels in some water sources.

Out of an abundance of caution, the ADH is working to provide water testing guidance to private well water owners who are not on the public water systems in those areas. Private wells get their water from groundwater that eventually works its way through the soil and into the well. Even though private well owners are not regulated by the ADH and are responsible for testing their own well water, this guidance is being issued to inform private well owners that public drinking water sources in their area have had detectable levels of cyanide. The ADH is not able to determine the source for these detections of cyanide. Private well owners should also be aware that private labs that test drinking water may not be testing for cyanide unless specifically asked to do so. 

Guidance:

1.    Private wells should be checked every year for mechanical problems, cleanliness, and the presence of coliform bacteria, nitrates, and any other contaminants of concern.

2.    In addition to testing for usual contaminants, private well owners in Benton and Phillips counties should consider testing well water for the presence of cyanide.

3.    Private labs are able to perform this testing for a fee. The ADH is also able to test private drinking water wells in these areas for the presence of cyanide at no cost to the homeowner.

4.    If present in well water, cyanide can be removed by installation of home reverse osmosis treatment systems. It is expected that most home owners will not need to install treatment equipment. Testing for cyanide can determine if it is present, and if it is present in high enough concentration to warrant the purchase of treatment equipment.

5.    It is important for private well owners to know the Environmental Protection Agency has set a safe lifetime exposure level of cyanide in drinking water at 0.2 mg/L or 0.2 ppm. At or below this level, public health is protected.

If a private homeowner wants ADH to test their well water for cyanide, they should contact the ADH at (501) 661-2171. Concerned individuals can also contact ADH by calling (501) 661-2623 or emailing safewater@arkansas.gov to ask questions and receive additional guidance.