Rural residents of Webster County, Missouri rely on
groundwater from drilled wells for drinking water. Results of a 1999 survey show better
watershed management is needed.
The majority of the soils in Webster County have moderate to severe limitations
for installing conventional septic tank/absorption field on-site waste treatment systems (see Figure 1). Pollution potential is increased near sinkholes
and underground faultlines, because rainfall that provides all drinking water can easily
move underground with minimal filtering and travel several miles before surfacing or being
withdrawn by wells (see Figure 2). Raw sewage contains many
potentially harmful pathogens (disease-causing organisms) such as E. coli, which is a
member of the coliform family (see Figure 3).
Prior to 1999, the Missouri Department of Health data on
bacterial contamination of private water wells in Webster County showed a 30 percent
contamination rate by coliform bacteria. The Webster County Commission questioned
these data and requested a random sampling be done to obtain more reliable figures.
So in August 1999, the county was divided into horizontal and vertical mapping
"grids" (see Figure 4) and a water sample was
taken from the private well closest to the intersection of each gridline. These samples
were tested for coliform bacteria, which are indicator organisms to test for contamination
of drinking water.
Of the 61 private wells tested by the Department of Health, 44 percent showed
unacceptable bacterial contamination (see Figure 5).
The sites were also surveyed visually for sewage runoff. Open discharge of sewage was
found on 28 percent of the sites.
For more information
||Web Manager: Bob Schultheis
Webster County Extension Center
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