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Drink water from your own private well? It's time you test the water quality and prepare for the future

As the climate changes, impacts on drinking water can become possible. Droughts, unpredictable seasons, and an increase in toxins could all affect drinking water.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — How do you drink water at your home?

Do you have a well on your property? Only use water bottles? Or do you even know where it comes from?

In Hancock Country. nearly 80 percent of residents drink from their own private well, meaning they're responsible to check the water quality. The threat of toxins was a key topic of conversation Monday night.

Sarah Hall is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Chair of Earth Systems and Geosciences at the College of the Atlantic.

At the MDI Biological Laboratory, Hall addressed a crowd of concerned citizens about the risk of toxins such as arsenic entering their drinking supply.

Credit: NCM

“The arsenic values in some people’s wells changed seasonally, so during the wet season maybe they had one value and, in the summer, when the steams run dry they had a different number," Hall said.

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Hall added that it is best to check your water quality twice a year. Once in the late summer and then during the wet season.

Data privacy is of paramount importance in the SEPA Data to Action project. However, non-obfuscated latitude and longitude data were accessible on the Tuva arsenic platform from April-September 2019. Arsenic, a naturally occurring contaminant in some groundwater, is a major contaminant of concern for human health worldwide.
1 in 10 wells in Maine has too much arsenic, uranium, radon, or other harmful chemicals. The only way to know if your water is safe to drink is to test it. Fill out this form to receive more information, a list of certified labs, or a free DVD about how to test your well water.

In November, the town of Bar Harbor declared a climate emergency. The town will begin to mobilize an action plan by the end of this month. Hall said that climate change can play a big factor in drinking water.

“Potentially different precipitation schedule, a different amount, different high-intensity storm events potentially longer droughts," Hall added. 

Down the road at the College of the Atlantic, students, and faculty are pushing the town, the state, and the nation to take action.

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Laura Berry is the Research Publications Director of the  Climate Mobilization Project. She said the impacts of climate change are already visible in the town.

“Rising sea levels, increased extreme weather effects, saltwater infiltration, we’re already experiencing these impacts," Berry said. "(We need to) start addressing the problem in our own backyards which is greenhouse gas admissions and using fossil fuels.”

Credit: NCM

The next step in this process is at the Bar Harbor Town Council Meeting on January 21. That's when Berry and her team will propose a mobilization of a task force with the responsibility of leading the fight against climate change. 

Ania Wright is a senior at C.O.A. and she is a youth representative for the state of Maine for climate change. She says her voice is heard when the state is involved in climate change discussions.

“The voices of the youth and future generations are being heard in the climate plans," Wright said. “I’m excited to see where our voices can take our climate plans.” 

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Senior Staff Scientist; Director of Education; Director, Community Environmental Health Laboratory Ph.D., Washington State University, Zoology, 1988 M.S., Pennsylvania State University, Genetics, 1984 B.S., Pennsylvania State University, Biology, 1982 My research involves working with multiple community partners, identifying and helping to remedy threats to public health and the clean waters on and around Mount Desert Island.