In Maine, more than half of all homes rely on private wells for drinking water. Many wells have levels of naturally occurring chemicals such as arsenic, radon, uranium, or other chemicals that can cause serious health effects such as cancer or low birth weight. These contaminants can only be detected through laboratory testing. Private well owners are responsible for testing their own water and correcting any problems. While everyone who gets drinking water from a private well should regularly test the water, some areas may be at higher risk than others for exposure to harmful chemicals.
Expanding Data to Town-Level
Updated data available on the Maine Tracking Network help identify those higher risk areas and draw a clearer picture about well water quality across the state. The Maine Tracking Network data portal displays well water data summarized at several geographic levels, including Maine’s towns and counties. Users can now view water quality data for six potentially hazardous substances derived from more than 45,000 well water tests and view measures such as the percentage of wells in a specific area with contaminant levels that exceed Maine’s health-based maximum exposure guidelines. The data portal also includes data about the percentage of homes with a well and well water testing behavior.
Focusing Outreach on High-risk Areas
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) uses these well water data to direct outreach efforts about the need to test and to guide the development of location-specific well water testing materials. To educate Mainers, brochures, posters, and contaminant fact-sheets offer county-specific water quality data and testing behavior data. Additionally, Maine CDC uses these data to identify towns where residents are likely to have private drinking water wells, and mails county-specific flyers with an offer for additional information on well water testing. Since the initial launch of the private well water content on the Maine Tracking Network in 2014, these data have become the second-most popular content area on the data portal. The data help individuals, organizations, policy makers, and municipalities better understand local well water issues and develop initiatives to promote well water safety and testing.