Multiple times a day, we turn on the faucet, fill our glasses, and drink, with little or no thought to where our water comes from. Here in Wilton, in a throwback to the town’s agrarian days, most residents still rely on wells for their drinking water, although the old-fashioned pump has been replaced with more modern versions. Unlike “city water” which is typically treated, well water comes straight from the ground into our sinks, tubs and washing machines, and unless a homeowner has installed a water treatment system, that water is untreated.

Many residents may not realize that because wells are often drilled into bedrock, the water they draw may have traces of uranium or arsenic. Both metals occur naturally in bedrock, but have been linked to health problems including cancer, neurological problems and kidney problems.

This past March, the Wilton Health Department launched a free program to test Wilton wells for uranium and arsenic and invited residents to sign up for testing.

“The State Department of Public Health has offered a well-testing program since 2013, but this is the first year that Wilton has participated,” explains Barry Bogle, Wilton’s director of health. “Standard well water tests don’t measure for uranium or arsenic, but the presence of these metals is a concern in this area because of its geologic characteristics.”

Over 150 people called in to put their names on the list of households to be chosen for testing. “We even had people calling up to get on the list, after the deadline,” he adds.

After the Health Department randomly selected 80 homes for testing, staff members went out into the community to collect water samples from these households and send them to the CT Department of Public Health lab. The lab analyzed each well and sent a report directly to each resident as well as to the town Department of Health.

“We want to create a database regarding the presence of uranium and arsenic in Wilton wells,” Bogle explains. “We were pleased to see that the data did not indicate that Wilton has a serious problem.”

He did note, however, that out of the 80 households, seven came back with traces of arsenic, two of those seven had levels that exceeded the EPA drinking water standard for arsenic (over .010 milligrams per litre), and one of the two wells came back with a level of 0.052 milligrams per litre.

Results for the presence of uranium were somewhat higher, with 33 wells reporting some level of uranium, six wells reporting levels that exceeded the EPA standard of 30 micrograms per litre and one well reporting 87 micrograms per litre.

“Wilton wells do not all draw from the same aquifer. Two adjacent neighbors’ wells may tap into different veins, so the characteristics of their water may not be the same. In addition, the levels of uranium and arsenic can fluctuate as the water level fluctuates,” Bogle says.

Bogle strongly recommends that homeowners have their wells tested periodically, and that residents whose well water is found to contain levels of uranium and arsenic higher than the EPA guidelines consult with a water treatment expert to install a treatment system to remediate the problem. Because both uranium and arsenic are only absorbed through drinking water, installing a point of use (POU) water treatment system at any faucet used to provide drinking water may be sufficient versus installing a point of entry (POE) system at the point where the water enters the home from the well.

Bogle says the Wilton Health Department plans to offer free water testing to an expanded number of households again next year to continue building the town database.