Journal of Environmental Health
December 2015, Volume 78, No. 5, 30–39
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A Community-Driven Intervention in Tuftonboro, New Hampshire, Succeeds in Altering Water Testing Behavior
Michael P. Paul, MPH, JD, Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program, The Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Pierce Rigrod, MRP, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
Steve Wingate, Tuftonboro Conservation Commission
Mark E. Borsuk, PhD, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College
Maximum contaminant levels created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act do not apply to private wells. Rather, the onus is on individual households to undertake regular water testing. Several barriers exist to testing and treating water from private wells, including a lack of awareness about both well water as a potential source of contaminants and government-recommended water testing schedules; a health literacy level that may not be sufficient to interpret complex environmental health messages; the inconvenience of water testing; the financial costs of testing and treatment; and a myriad of available treatment options. The existence of these barriers is problematic because well water can be a source of hazardous contaminants. This article describes an initiative—undertaken by the Tuftonboro (New Hampshire) Conservation Commission, with support from state agencies and a research program at Dartmouth College—to increase water testing rates in a rural region with a relatively high number of wells. The project prompted more water tests at the state laboratory in one day than in the prior six years. This suggests that community-driven, collaborative efforts to overcome practical barriers could be successful at raising testing rates and ultimately improving public health.