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Webster County Water Testing Survey              


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drinking water can easily move underground with minimal filtering and travel several miles before surfacing or being withdrawn by wells (see Figure 2).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.

Testing Procedure
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

University of Missouri Extension Web Manager:  Bob Schultheis
Webster County Extension Center
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Last revised: 09/26/2012

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