March 19, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Residents of the eight counties in far western Kentucky known as the Purchase area depend more heavily on well water as their main source of water than any other region in the state.

In the next few weeks, users of 24-inch wells in the Purchase area will be able to participate in a program that will test their water for nitrates/nitrogen and pesticides. The testing will not include bacteria, but well owners can have that done through their local health department.

The upcoming testing program is funded by money the University of Kentucky receives from the state for water quality efforts.

Two UK groups, the Cooperative Extension Service and Kentucky Geological Survey will be conducting the program, said Bill Thom, Extension state water quality coordinator. Anyone in Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall, Ballard, McCracken, Carlisle and Calloway counties with a 24-inch circumference dug or bored well who would like to participate in the program should contact a local Extension agent.

The test results will be given to the well owners. If the water shows a health risk, the well user will be advised of the possible risks and alternative drinking water sources, which will be part of a follow-up education.

The data will be used to further supplement existing statewide data, some of which was collected more than a decade ago.

The study will focus on 24-inch wells because of their construction and vulnerability to contaminants, Thom said. They hope to be able to test between 80 and 100 wells. They want to have the wells identified by the middle of April.

Some 14 to 15 percent of wells sampled statewide in past programs have tested above what is considered the contaminant level for nitrates/nitrogen, he said. Nitrates/nitrogen have some health concerns with levels of more than 10 parts per million.

In Kentucky, 90 percent of wells are used for drinking water and people in far western Kentucky rely heavily on wells. Some 7,000 wells already have been identified in the Purchase area, but only a small percentage of those wells have been sampled for water quality, Thom said.  It is estimated there are three times that many in the region.

The water testing data will go into the large Kentucky Groundwater Data Repository maintained by the Kentucky Geological Survey at UK. The data is used to establish the condition of groundwater in the state to see if there are potential problems for users.


Bill Thom, (859) 257-4633