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New report finds WV’s groundwater ‘generally good’

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West Virginia's groundwater meets primary drinking-water criteria, according to a recent, 10-year U.S. Geological Survey study.

The study is the most comprehensive assessment of West Virginia's groundwater quality to-date, but there were some red flags.

In more than half of the groundwater samples, naturally occurring iron and manganese exceeded secondary drinking-water criteria, which are non-enforceable guidelines.

Also in the northwest area of the state, along with the Eastern Panhandle, radon gas concentrations in groundwater frequently exceeded a proposed maximum concentration level. That information was obtained in a report performed along with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Some research has linked manganese and excess iron to developmental delays in children. Some research also has found that breathing radon gas increases the risk for lung cancer.

While public water supplies are treated to ensure that water reaching the tap of households meets federal requirements, there are no such requirements for private supplies, such as private wells.

"I want to personally thank the scientists who persisted in this monumental effort to gather an immense amount of data in a state with complex geology on a very important topic: the safety of the water we drink," USGS Director Marcia McNutt said in a news release. "Overall, the results of this study are very good news for those who rely on groundwater in West Virginia, although those with private wells would be wise to get their water tested for a few elements of possible concern."

About 42 percent of all West Virginians rely on groundwater for their domestic water supply.

Scientists sampled groundwater for a wide range of natural and manmade chemical characteristics for this study. All samples were of raw, untreated groundwater.