1114 Bushkill Center Rd. Nazareth, PA 18064 | 610-759-1250

Drinking Water

Bushkill Township

Most residents in Bushkill Township depend on ground water for their drinking water supply. By having a basic understanding about ground water quality, it will help ensure that your well is supplying safe, potable water for your household.

Along with human activities, water quality is affected by a combination of natural processes. Most relate to chemical compositions underground. However, other factors such as biological, physical, and radiological conditions can affect water quality.

Public drinking water supplies are required, by law, to be free from microbial pathogens. Private water systems, however, which are also vulnerable to contamination from bacteria, usually have no governmental oversight. If you rely on a private well, it is your responsibility to ensure the water is safe to drink. You should inspect the condition of your well regularly and test a water sample every one to two years.

More frequent testing is recommended when well condition is poor, the well has been inundated with floodwater, the septic system has malfunctioned, abandoned wells or feed yards are located nearby, or visitors have complained of stomach or intestinal distress. At a minimum, your well should be tested for both total coliform and nitrate.

Interpretation of Lab Results

There are a variety of bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause health problems when humans ingest them in drinking water. Testing water for each of these germs is difficult and expensive. Instead, water quality and public health workers measure coliform levels. The presence of coliform bacteria in drinking water suggests there may be disease-causing agents in the water.

Coliforms are a broad class of bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of humans and many animals. Labs may test for total coliforms, fecal coliforms, or E. coli, any of which indicate microbial contamination. Results are generally reported as no coliforms present, the actual number of organisms detected per 100 ml of water, or as too numerous to count. Some labs may simply report results as bacteriologically safe or unsafe. If your drinking water contains more than 1 total coliform org/100 ml or is reported as unsafe bacteriologically, the well should be disinfected and retested in one to two weeks. If subsequent tests indicate bacteria are still present, the source of the contamination must be identified and eliminated before the water is safe to drink.

Homeowners can easily disinfect their wells by shock chlorination. This method if disinfection is the one-time introduction of a strong chlorine solution into the entire water distribution system (well, pump, distribution pipeline, etc.).

Directions on how to shock chlorinate your well can be found at the Penn State University website.

Most nitrogen in ground water comes from the atmosphere. Some plants can "attach" nitrogen from the atmosphere onto their roots. The nitrogen not used by the plants is then released into the soil. Nitrogen compounds also can work their way into ground water through fertilizers, manure, and urine from farm animals, sewage, and landfills. The most common forms in groundwater are ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. Nitrates can be especially toxic to children under six months of age. Exposure to ammonia also presents a health risk. It is toxic to aquatic life such as fish, and it interferes with water treatment. There are a variety of treatment methods to correct this problem, including reverse osmosis systems with water softeners to remove nitrates and nitrites, and oxidation to remove small amounts of ammonia. However, treatment should be a last resort. Removing the source of contamination is the first priority. You should also be sure to protect the area around the wellhead from contamination by animals or fertilizers.

More information on nitrates can be found on the Penn State University website

Additional Information
For more information on water treatment methods, visit the website of the Water Quality Association www.wqa.org. a not-for-profit international trade association representing the household, commercial, industrial, and small community water treatment industry.

To help you identify and deal with water quality problems, the Water Quality Association offers a "Diagnose Your Drinking Water" interactive database at its website www.wqa.org..

You can also contact the Water Quality Association for more information via its "Contact Us" page on the website.

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