Spring is the perfect time to test your drinking water well

URI Encourages Rhode Island Well Owners To Test Their Water Before June 28, 2013 and Receive a 15% Discount at Several Participating Labs

Through June 28, 2013, you can receive 15% off well testing packages at participating State-certified labs.  Call URI to receive a coupon at 401-874-4918 or email Alyson McCann, Program Coordinator at alyson@uri.edu.

The participating State-certified laboratories include: BAL and ESS; New England Testing Lab, Inc; Northeast Environmental Testing Lab; and Premier Lab.

Private well owners are responsible for ensuring that their drinking water is safe for them and their families. The Rhode Island Department of Health suggests annual testing for key water substances and potential health hazards such as bacteria and nitrates.

For more information on private well testing and protection, visit www.riwelltesting.org.

This URI program provides education and outreach to the public on topics related to drinking water, including private well protection.

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Safe Well Water? Not a Sure Thing! Test to Be Sure.

If you live in a home with a private well, then it’s your responsibility to ensure it is safe to drink for you and your family.  Unlike public water supplies that are tested regularly, testing a private well is the owner’s responsibility.

Many substances that commonly occur in well water are odorless, colorless and tasteless.  The only way to know they are there is to have the water tested.  The Rhode Island Department of Health has developed a water testing schedule for you to follow.  Items to test are listed on a yearly schedule, every 3 – 5 years and every 5- 10 years.  The water should also be tested whenever you notice a change in its taste, smell or color.

Where do I have the test done?  Testing should be done at a state certified lab.  For a listing of these labs, the testing schedule and more information please visit our website at riwelltesting.org

Finally, we offer community workshops to help private well owners understand the importance of testing and protecting their private well.  Our fall workshop series is currently being scheduled – you can also access it on our website at riwelltesting.org.

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Water Conservation Tips

Water is one of the most essential elements of life, and it is important to use it wisely. Therefore, this post is dedicated to laying out some basic and relatively simple water conservation tips around the home.

Why conserve?

Water Conservation Saves Money – 
If you receive your water from a public supply, the cost of treating, pumping, and delivering water to your home increases, as does the cost of treating the wastewater that leaves your home. In most urban areas of the state, sewer bills are tied to the amount of water you use. If you have a private well and septic system, water conservation will help reduce costly repairs. You can also prolong the life of your septic system by reducing the amount of wastewater that goes into it.

Water Conservation Saves Energy
 – Water conservation saves energy and can help to reduce your monthly bills.

Water Conservation Reduces Pollution
 – Conservation reduces the amount of wastewater going to the sewage treatment plant. This may mean better treatment and cleaner water being discharged to our rivers and bays. If you have a septic system, conservation can prevent septic tank and drainfield overloads and help ensure that a septic system is treating wastewater properly.

Around the house you can:

  • Use a water-efficient showerhead, which can save you up to 750 gallons of water a month.
  • Fix any leaky or dripping faucets.
  • Consider Energy Star or EPA WaterSense Label models when looking for new household appliances.  For more information, see: http://www.energystar.gov/
  • Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth, washing your face, or shaving.
  • Wash clothes or dishes only when the machines are full.
  • Insulate your water pipes.
  • Consider replacing older toilets with newer, low-flow ones.

Around the yard you can:

  • Water lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to avoid evaporation.
  • Adjust sprinklers so only the lawn is watered, not the house, sidewalk, or street.
  • Check for leaky outdoor faucets.
  • Plant drought-resistant plants that require less water.

There are many great websites out there with comprehensive conservation tips and additional resources:

Water, Use It Wisely webpage

RI Water Resources Board Education page

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Using Rain Gardens for Stormwater Collection

If you’re a gardener and like to get out and work in your yard, spring is the perfect time to start a new project.  If this is the case for you, consider a new garden that not only brings beauty and interest to your landscape, but, also captures stormwater runoff from your property.  A rain garden will do just that!

A rain garden is a natural or dug shallow depression designed to capture and soak up stormwater runoff from areas around the house – like driveways, walkways, patios and rooftops.

The plants you select are best suited to soak up the runoff.  Stormwater runoff is considered one of the major threats to water quality.  As a result, rain gardens not only improve water quality but also can add beauty and variety to your home landscape.

Some additional benefits of rain gardens include:

  • Provide habitat for wildlife and, with the proper plants, increase the number and diversity of birds and butterflies for those who enjoy watching them.
  • Provide an attractive and creative alternative to traditional lawn landscapes
  • Require less maintenance than lawns because they do not need to be mowed, fertilized, or watered once established.
  • Increase property values with creative landscaping designs.
  • Reduce storm drain overload and flooding if adopted on a community or neighborhood scale.

There are many different references for the design and implementation of rain gardens. However, some basic rules are:

  • Garden should be at least 10 feet from the house so infiltrating water doesn’t seep into the foundation
  • Do not place the rain garden within 15 feet of a septic system, or 25 feet of a well or water supply
  • It is better to build the rain garden in full or partial sun
  • Don’t put the rain garden in a part of the yard where water already ponds.

It is best to use plants that are native and non-invasive, which are resistant to stress from both brief periods of pooling as well as dry patches between rain events. It is best to use plants that already have a developed root system instead of starting the garden from seeds.

It’s time to start planning your fair weather projects!

Information about rain gardens can be found on our website.  This site contains links with information about designing and installing rain gardens and a plant list.

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Private Well Workshop

Do you get your drinking water from a private well? Are you interested in learning more about your well?

The URI Cooperative Extension Water Quality Program, in cooperation with the Charlestown Conservation Commission, is hosting a private well workshop. This will take place at the Cross Mills Public Library in Charlestown, RI on May 3, 2012 from 7-9 pm. Topics covered at this workshop include:

  • Regular testing
  • Private well maintenance
  • Good housekeeping practices for your well
  • And more!

To register, call (401) 874-4918.

For more information, please visit our website.

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Hazardous Waste Around the House

Thinking about doing a fall cleanup around the house? How are you planning to dispose of any old cleaning products, rechargeable batteries, or nail polish remover?

These products, along with others like motor oil, pesticides, discarded paint cans, mothballs, flea collars, and some medicines are all considered household hazardous waste (HHW). The average home can have up to 100 pounds of household hazardous waste, and the proper disposal of these products is crucial. Household hazardous products that are improperly used, stored, or disposed can enter groundwater and surface water supplies, and can ultimately be harmful to your health.

In Rhode Island, you can dispose of household hazardous waste safely and properly at the Eco-Depot. These collections take place both at the on-site location in Johnston, as well as at various locations across the state. This program is offered by appointment only. To make an appointment and see the 2011 fall calendar, go to http://www.rirrc.org/resident/household-hazardous-waste/

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What Can You Do to Minimize Stormwater Effects on Drinking Water?

When rainwater falls on pavement, it flows down the street and into a drain. Do you know where that drain leads the water away to? Despite what you may think, stormwater runoff going down drains does not go into any treatment facility, but typically flows into local water bodies. This is a problem because when it hits the pavement, water mixes with whatever is on the ground. That may include oil, grease, fertilizers and pesticides, bacteria from pet waste, sand from wintertime snow removal, debris, or other litter. Therefore, it’s not just rainwater going down those stormdrains, but polluted water!

But fear not, there is a way to minimize stormwater pollution! You can take action in many different ways:

Around the Home:

  • Don’t pour out toxic chemicals down the drain – share with neighbors, buy only what you need for a job, or make an appointment to bring leftover household chemicals to the Eco-Depot (a free drop-off at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation’s facility at the Central Landfill in Johnston).
  • Reduce the amount of hazardous household chemicals that you use – choose non-hazardous products when possible (i.e. lemon juice, vinegar, and baking soda are good alternatives), or buy phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents and cleaners.
  • Have you septic system inspected – this can keep your system functioning properly.

Around the Yard:

  • Sweep spills back onto the lawn- if chemicals or yard debris get on the sidewalk or driveway, sweep them back onto the lawn to prevent them from flowing into the stormdrains.
  • Don’t dump, wash, or rake anything into stormdrains or into the path of stormdrains.
  • Water wisely – adjust sprinklers so that they don’t water paved surface, make sure automatic sprinklers aren’t programmed to come on in the rain, and don’t water in the heat of the day (water either early in the morning or in the evening to minimize water loss to evaporation).

For more information about stormwater runoff, or for many more simple steps that can be taken to keep stormwater clean, please visit Rhode Island Stormwater Solutions.

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