Term of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health in Public Health Leadership (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Department

College of Public Health

Committee Chair

Asli Aslan

Committee Member 1

Haresh Rochani

Committee Member 2

William Mase

Abstract

ABSTRACT

There are no state or federal regulations mandating the testing of private water wells in Georgia. In this pilot study, randomly selected private water wells in Evans County, Georgia were tested for commonly encountered waterborne contaminants. The results were then used to evaluate current state and federal policy regarding rural well water testing requirements. Water samples from 17 households were collected and tested for combinations of total heterotrophic bacteria, fecal indictor bacteria (FIB), Legionella pneumophila, 18 inorganic contaminants, four heavy metals, and 52 organic chemicals commonly found in pesticides and herbicides. Homeowners were also interviewed to obtain further information on well and household plumbing characteristics and the health status of residents. Mean age of the wells tested for contaminants was 33.9 years (SD=23.9). Most of the wells (93%) were machine bored with an average depth of 409.25 feet (SD=180). Each well served an average of 3.4 individuals. Of the wells tested, 12.5 % provided water to an individual under the age of 5, and 84.6% of the wells provided water to an individual over the age of 65. Only 53% of the wells were previously tested for contaminants. Of the wells tested, 26% had heterotrophic bacteria levels above safe drinking water guidelines and 67% of sites tested were positive for Legionella pneumophila. Both chlorine residual analyses and survey responses suggest the wells were never treated or are currently undertreated with chlorine-based disinfectants. The results of fecal indicator bacteria analysis suggest no septic system intrusion in these wells. Three wells exhibited elevated levels of nitrate suggesting input from agricultural sources such as fertilizers. The presence of opportunistic bacteria in the distribution systems suggests the possibility of chronic exposure to waterborne pathogens. The presence of opportunistic pathogens in household water distribution systems is a significant concern. A regional monitoring program which should include testing for a broader group of pathogens and chemical contaminants is needed to further assess the health impact of these drinking water sources. No current local, state, or federal mandatory water testing requirements would have led to the discovery of these contaminants.

Research Data and Supplementary Material

Yes

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