Volunteers needed for well water study

June 9, 2006

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Rural residents in some Lane, Linn and Benton counties will have the opportunity to take an active role in studying potential pollutants in their groundwater when the Oregon State University Extension Service Well Water Program launches a new monitoring and research program in the southern Willamette Valley.

The program is asking for participation from the public.

"The Community Well Water Testing Program is a unique opportunity for homeowners with wells to learn more about their drinking water while contributing to research that will aid in understanding local groundwater resources," said Gail Andrews, OSU Well Water Program coordinator. "There is a lot we want to know about groundwater and wells in this area so we can help residents insure that the water they are drinking is safe."

Shallow groundwater in the southern Willamette Valley contains elevated levels of nitrate, and the area was classified a Groundwater Management Area in 2004 by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Nitrate occurs naturally in the environment, often without negative impacts. However exposure to concentrated levels in drinking water – more than 10 parts per million – may be a danger to human health, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The OSU research project is focusing on drinking wells around Coburg, Harrisburg, Junction City, Monroe and the portions of Corvallis along the Willamette River, but residents who live in other areas of the southern Willamette Valley and want to participate will also be considered, said Laura Moscowitz, the project lead and a student in the OSU Water Resources Graduate Program.

"Through this one-year pilot project, we hope to better identify areas at risk and determine how nitrate levels vary throughout the year," said Moscowitz. "With this information we can assist residents of the region in making better management decisions about their individual drinking water supply."

Volunteers with the program will be trained to collect water samples and perform simple nitrate tests for their own well and a few nearby wells. Other area residents can be involved by offering their wells as sample sites, said Moscowitz, adding that ideally there would be a group of residents in each who want to participate on a variety of levels.

The training is free and all expenses will be covered. Volunteers are asked to contribute a few hours each month for one year. Wells and volunteer monitors will be selected throughout the summer, but volunteers wishing to be included in the first round of training should contact the program by June 20, said Moscowitz.

For more information, or to volunteer for the Community Well Water Testing Program, contact Laura Moscowitz at moscowil@onid.orst.edu or call (541) 207-7472. Information is also available on the Southern Willamette Valley Groundwater Management Area website at http://groundwater.oregonstate.edu/willamette/.

Author: Aimee Lyn Brown
Source: Laura Moscowitz