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Residents turn out for water testing project

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Photos by Carolyn B. Edwards
John W. Smith, Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, tests private water well samples at BCRAGD last Wednesday.

Stacy Teston, Bandera County's Family and Consumer Science Agent with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and Roy Chancy, with BCRAGD, help private water well owners submit their water samples.

In a joint project hosted by the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD), Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (AES), the Bandera County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Texas Water Resources Institute, over 150 local private well owners got their well water tested last week.
Water samples were accepted on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the BCRAGD offices in Bandera. They were screened for common contaminants including fecal coliform bacteria, nitrates and high salinity.
Extension Program Specialist John W. Smith was kept busy dipping the tester into the water samples Wednesday morning. "There are over one million private water wells in Texas," he said. "It's great that you have a groundwater district that takes such an active interest in educating the people about their groundwater."
BCRAGD General Manager Dave Mauk said he was both surprised and pleased by the turnout for this first well water testing day. Since it is recommended that private water wells be tested annually, the governmental agencies hosting this first event will no doubt consider making it an annual affair.
According to County Extension Agent Sam Womble, the presence of fecal coliform bacteria in water indicates that waste from humans or warm-blooded animals may have contaminated the water. Water contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria is more likely to also have pathogens present that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or other symptoms.
Water with nitrates at levels of 10 parts per million (ppm) is considered unsafe for human consumption. Nitrate levels above 10 ppm can disrupt the ability of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body, resulting in a condition called methemoglobinemia. Infants less than 6 months of age and young livestock are most susceptible.
Salinity as measured by Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) will also be determined for each sample. Water with high TDS levels may leave deposits and have a salty taste. Additionally, using water with high TDS for irrigation may damage the soil or plants, Womble added.
Private well owners who submitted their well samples attended a follow-up meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7 at Mansfield Park for an explanation of their screening results, a discussion of corrective measures for the identified problems, and heard information about techniques to improve private well management.