Well Selection Information for Homeowners and PWS Personnel

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Well Selection Information for Homeowners and PWS Personnel

metal pipes sticking up from snowy ground

Groundwater well in New York(Public domain.)

Homeowner/PWS FAQ's

Why is my well a candidate?

Homeowners - If you received a letter from the USGS about sampling your well, it is a candidate because a well completion report was filed with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation when your well was constructed. The well completion report contains basic information about the well, for example, how deep it is, and what kind of rock it is drilled into. This information helps us understand the results of the water quality tests.

Public Water Supplies - All public supplies that use ground water in the study area are candidates for sampling.

What is the USGS sampling for?

Because we want a general overview of the ground-water quality, we sample for a wide range of properties and compounds, including pH, bacteria, nutrients, metals, ions, radon, volatile organic compounds, and pesticides. Altogether, we sample for more than 100 different compounds.

What information does the USGS need in order to sample my well?

We need to know basic information about the well, such as how deep it is and if it has a screen or not.

Homeowners - we need to know if your well is the same well we have a completion report for; this is why we ask when it was drilled and who it was drilled by, etc.

Public Water Supplies - sometimes we have information from a USGS database and need to try to match this to the wells currently in use. Sometimes we have no information at all and need basic information such as how many wells the WD has and corresponding construction data (depth, diameter, screen placement, etc.) for the wells we are likely to sample. Construction logs are very helpful if they exist. If your town or village is close to the borders of our study area, we need to know the general location of the wells to make sure they are in the study area.

We need to know if we can sample untreated water, preferably as close to the well as possible.

Homeowners - a drain valve (usually a garden-hose type spigot) is almost always installed very close to the pressure tank; this is usually where we sample.

Public Water Supplies - we usually sample at the same location you would use to collect raw samples.

We need to know if there is somewhere to drain excess water. If there isn't a drain, we have to haul buckets of water around. We can drain to a sink, sump, or to the ground outside if there a door or window near the spigot (for example a bilco door out of the basement).

What information will I get?

You will get a copy of all the data for your well. Some of the data comes back right away (bacteriological), some takes a while (sometimes as much as 6 months). When all the data comes in, we'll compile a data table for you. Generally, as the data comes back from the lab, if we notice anything unusual we'll give you a call to let you know.

Will it cost me anything?

All analytical costs are paid for by USGS and NYSDEC. All we need from you is access to the water.

How does the USGS decide which wells to sample?

We choose wells for sampling based on the availability of construction information about the well, and to achieve a good geographical distribution within the study area. We sample approximately half homeowner wells and half public supply wells, and try to sample about half wells finished in sand and gravel and half wells finished in bedrock. We don't target specific municipalities, industries, or agricultural practices when selecting sampling sites. Sampling does focus on locations of greatest ground water use.

What will the USGS do with the data?

The USGS will publish a data report of the results (for example Open-File Report 2004-1329). Your name will not be included in the report (the wells are identified by the sequential number on the well completion report).

How long will it take to collect the sample?

USGS personnel will collect the sample. Sampling usually takes 1 to 2 hours. Part of the reason it takes so long is that we need to remove the water that is already in the well. This is because we want to sample ambient groundwater, not water that has been sitting in the well casing.

How do you collect the sample?

The sample is collected using standard USGS protocols. Click here for a general overview of how samples are collected.

When do you collect the sample?

Sampling typically starts for the year in August. We usually sample Monday through Thursday, from morning through early afternoon. Some of the samples we collect are time sensitive, and the receiving hours of the laboratories limit when we can sample.

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Contact Tia-Marie Scott (USGS Troy) or Ben Fisher (USGS Ithaca) if you have more questions.