CHARLESTOWN — Homeowners with private wells are urged to attend a free workshop in Charlestown on Tuesday, July 16.

Water quality experts from the University of Rhode Island will discuss well water testing, contaminants, treatment and maintenance.

“We coordinate four to eight of these workshops annually in communities where residents rely on private wells,” said Alyson McCann, water quality coordinator at URI. “These programs are supported by URI Cooperative Extension and the Rhode Island Department of Health and are typically held in partnership with a local organization. In terms of the workshop at the Cross' Mills Public Library, the Charlestown Conservation Commission is co-sponsoring this annual workshop in town. Our work is to provide technical assistance to Rhode Island private well owners about how to test and protect their private drinking water supply.”

Owners of private wells are responsible for ensuring that the water is safe to drink, so McCann said it was important to have well water tested.

“The only way to know if the water is safe is to have it tested at a state-certified lab,” McCann said. “At the workshop, we provide the testing schedule developed by the RI Department of Health and the list of state-certified labs.”

The Department of Health recommends annual tests for coliform bacteria, nitrate/nitrite, color, turbidity, sodium and chloride. Additional tests are recommended every three to five years. Every five to 10 years, homeowners are advised to have their well water tested for the presence of volatile organic compounds and Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether, or MTBE, a blending component of gasoline.

The Department of Health advises that site-specific tests may also be necessary. 

“If a well is near a known source of groundwater contamination it should be tested for chemicals that may be present at elevated levels,” the department’s website states. “In particular, the Department of Health recommends testing for beryllium in areas where the bedrock is close to the surface and for arsenic in areas where there are, or have been orchards as that element has been used in pesticides.”

Educational handouts and water test kits will be available  at the workshop. The cost of the water test, which is performed at the Department of Health laboratory, is $95.

“At the workshop we will have the annual test kits available for the R.I. State Health Labs. Participants can get a kit and the next morning we will be back at the library from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. to pick up water samples, payment and paperwork and bring them to the RI State Health lab in Providence for testing,” McCann said.

McCann also noted that experts will be available to answer questions about the test results.

“We provide follow-up assistance if people have questions about their well and/or water quality, the well water test results, and any next steps if the test results warrant this,” she said.

Registration is required for the workshop, which will take place from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Cross' Mills Public Library, 4417 Old Post Road. For more information, or to register, call the URI Cooperative Extension at 401 874-4918. Information is also available at:


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