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Survey says...

Groundwater issue focus of door-to-door interviews

It was 20 questions, minus one, as students from Toppenish’s Heritage University conducted a survey of Lower Valley households recently as part of an outreach effort related to groundwater issues.

Yakima County released the survey results yesterday, Monday, which showed only 42 percent of the 136 households interviewed had heard of the Lower Valley Groundwater Management Area Advisory Committee.

Now in its second year, the advisory committee was formed in response to nitrate contamination found in some Lower Valley private wells.

Heritage University students attempted to interview 300 households in rural areas of the Lower Valley served by private wells, but only 136 could be reached or accepted the door-to-door interview offer.

Results indicated that 69 percent surveyed are aware of the potential health risks associated with drinking water with high levels of nitrate. Over half of those surveyed have had their private well tested for nitrate.

Four percent (six households) believe someone in their home had become ill from drinking their well water. None, however, indicated that high levels of nitrate were the source of the illness.

One sign of progress indicated in the survey is that 59 percent of respondents said they take steps on their own to make sure their drinking water is safe.

In addition, a third of the households indicated an interest in participating in a more in-depth, high-risk well assessment survey. All of those surveyed live within the groundwater management area boundaries.

The 19-question survey was conducted on behalf of the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Man-agement Area Advisory Committee, a multi-agency and citizen-based group coordinating the efforts to reduce nitrate contamination in Lower Yakima Valley groundwater.

The survey was intended to both inform and educate citizens while gaining data in its efforts to address nitrate contamination in the Lower Yakima Valley.

Other survey results included:

  • Only about half of the respondents said they actually drink tap water from their private or shared well. Rather, 30 percent said they drink treated water and 18 percent said they drink bottled water.

  • 33 percent of those interviewed have had their well water tested for bacteria.

  • About 40 percent of the households responded to a question on how they heard about the groundwater management area advisory committee. Of those, 17 percent said they learned of the groundwater effort through newspaper coverage, 5 percent via radio and only 2 percent through TV programming. Another 13 percent said they heard about the groundwater effort through other means.

Results of the survey will help launch a more in-depth study of up to 320 private wells in the Lower Yakima Valley that will begin this month.

The study, to be conducted by the Yakima Health District, will start with the 45 households who indicated interest in participating in that survey.

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