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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Media Center

DATE: May 5, 2019
CONTACT: Sarah Pillsbury (603) 271-1168

NH Addressing Drinking Water Issues, Private Wells at Greatest Risk
Drinking Water Week May 5-11

Concord, NH - With concerns about the safety of drinking water in the news, New Hampshire officials are marking Drinking Water Week with an update on initiatives to ensure safe public water systems, advice on how private well users can take charge of drinking water safety, and a day of fun and learning for fourth-graders.

The drinking water program in the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) oversees the state's 2,500 public water systems, ensuring that they conform to federal and state safe drinking water standards; employ certified operators, test their water using accredited laboratories; and report results to NHDES. "Among our top concerns right now are testing for new contaminants including PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), setting limits for those contaminants to protect health, tightening up the arsenic standard to make it more protective of health, preventing contamination, ensuring compliance with existing standards, and helping water systems get the funding they need to upgrade, maintain and expand their facilities," according to Sarah Pillsbury, administrator of NHDES' drinking water program. Water systems got a boost in recent years with loans and grants from the New Hampshire Drinking Water and Groundwater Trust Fund.

While the traditional focus of state and federal safe drinking water programs has been on public water systems - and in New Hampshire on preventing contamination of groundwater - state and local officials are increasingly pointing to private wells as the biggest drinking water safety issue in the state. "Nearly half of our residents use private wells at home," notes Pillsbury, "and many of those wells have harmful levels of natural contaminants such as arsenic, radon and bacteria." NHDES urges private well users to have their water tested at an accredited laboratory and to use NHDES' "Be Well Informed" webpage to understand what kind of water treatment they might need.

Every year during Drinking Water Week the New Hampshire Drinking Water Coalition holds its Drinking Water Festival and Fourth Grade State Water Science Fair. This year's event will be held at Manchester's Water Treatment Plant near Lake Massabesic. The purpose of the all-day event is to educate students about the importance of water resources, where drinking water comes from, and issues that impact water quality, and to make them aware that their actions can affect water. Through hands-on activities, interactive exhibits and live music performances, students explore information on water conservation, water testing, groundwater pollution and keeping water clean. The event is not open to the public, but to find out about participating in future events, please contact NHDES' Lara Hooper at or (603) 271-4071.

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
(603) 271-3503 | TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964 | Hours: M-F, 8am-4pm

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