EDINBURG — Lower Rio Grande Valley residents will have the opportunity to have their water wells tested at various locations during March, according to organizers.
The Texas Well Owner Network will present well water screenings for Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, according to Brad Cowan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent in Edinburg.
“Private water wells are the responsibility of the property owner and they should be tested annually,” Cowan said. “We’re asking those who are submitting samples to use only sampling bags they get from their respective AgriLife Extension offices. They will also get instructions on how and when to take the water sample to ensure accurate results. Samples must be taken within 24 hours of the time they are submitted to their county’s AgriLife Extension office.”
The screenings are presented by AgriLife Extension in partnership with the Texas Water Resources Institute.
The dates, times and locations for the screenings will be:
– March 10 from 8:30–9 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension office for Starr County, 500 N. Britton Ave. in Rio Grande City. The cost is $10 per sample and samples must be turned in by 9 a.m. on the day of the screening. A meeting explaining screening results will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 11 at the Abel Gonzalez Community Center, 3107 Farm-to-Market Road 1017 in San Isidro.
– March 11 from 8:30–10 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension office for Hidalgo County, 410 N. 13th Ave. in Edinburg. The cost is $10 per sample and samples must be turned in by 10 a.m. on the day of the screening. A follow-up meeting to explain screening results will be held at 7 p.m. March 12 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 2415 E. Highway 83 in Weslaco.
– March 12 from 8:30–9 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension offices for Cameron County, 1390 W. Expressway 83 in San Benito, and Willacy County at 170 N. Third St. in Raymondville. The cost is $10 per sample and samples must be turned in by 9 a.m. on the day of the screening. The follow-up meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 13at the AgriLife Extension office in San Benito.
Samples will be screened for common contaminants, including fecal coliform bacteria, nitrates and high salinity, according to John W. Smith, AgriLife Extension program specialist in College Station.
Smith said the presence of fecal coliform bacteria in water indicates that waste from humans or warm-blooded animals may have contaminated the water. Water contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria is more likely to also have pathogens present that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or other symptoms.
“Water with nitrate-nitrogen levels of 10 parts per million is considered unsafe for human consumption,” Smith said. “These nitrate levels above 10 parts per million can disrupt the ability of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body, resulting in a condition called methemoglobinemia. Infants less than 6 months of age and young livestock are most susceptible.”
Salinity, as measured by total dissolved solids, will also be determined for each sample. Water with high levels may leave deposits and have a salty taste, and using water with high levels for irrigation may damage soil or plants.
Smith said it is extremely important for those submitting samples to be at the meeting to receive results, learn corrective measures for identified problems and to improve understanding of private well management.
For more information for the Starr County screening, call 956-487-2306; for Hidalgo County, 956-383-1026; for Cameron County, 956-361-8236; and for Willacy County, 956-689-2412.
To learn more about programs offered through the Texas Well Owner Network or to find additional publications and resources, go to http://twon.tamu.edu.
Support for the Texas Well Owner Network program is provided through Clean Water Act nonpoint source funding from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.