Over 40% of Maine’s population obtains their water from a private source, and it is estimated that in Maine, one in ten wells have arsenic at a level above Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, and one in twenty have elevated uranium (Frohmberg, 2008). In a targeted study of wells in the Augusta, Maine area, it was found that 31% of wells had arsenic above the recommended levels (Jung et al., 2007). Besides these naturally occurring contaminants, well owners need to be aware of well contamination, which could lead to unsafe levels of bacteria and nitrates. No agency regulates or monitors private well water – well owners are responsible for ensuring that they have a safe source of drinking water.
Program Overview & Objectives
This project will help us determine how to best use the resources we have for private well water outreach, by testing the effectiveness of these outreach opportunities. We will develop an evaluation tool/set of tools which will enable us to determine the best method to reach this audience, and also develop a better understanding of the resources that will be needed by this audience after wellwater testing.
The primary benefit of this project is the increase in the number of Maine families testing their well water. Secondary benefits include future cost savings, by allowing us to create outreach programs that have a better chance of success, and streamlined information transfer, as we create one repository for wellwater information in Maine (update wellwater.maine.gov).
As a result of this project, we anticipate that more people with private wells in Maine will test their wells according to Maine CDC guidelines. In addition, we will:
• have a better understanding of methods to reach private well owners,
• increase the availability of information to adults with private wells,
• coordinate independent efforts to reach private well owners,
• generate new knowledge about arsenic and fluoride in private wells,
• develop a longer-term (5 – 10 year) outreach plan, and
• project partners and one undergraduate student will gain greater knowledge in
outreach and social marketing.
We will develop, deliver and evaluate multiple outreach methods to convince adults in Maine and other rural New England locations to test their private wells. These methods include participation in local health fairs, stand-alone wellwater workshops, community events, and/or adult education programs. We will partner with the student-generated data program GET WET!, and use new information about arsenic and fluoride in well water to better understand how the presentation of local contaminant information can influence homeowners’ decisions to test and treat well water.
The project partners will develop an outreach and evaluation plan, including the different types of outreach activities mentioned above (adult education programs, GET WET! student presentations, health fairs/community events, well water workshops) A student research assistant will coordinate the project, schedule programs, and conduct a final evaluation. The PI and student will conduct the activities and evaluate and compare the success of each outreach method. Specifically, we plant to evaluate the impact of a signed written pledge to test private well water. Previous studies have shown that people are more likely to follow through with desired social behavior when they’ve made a verbal or written commitment to do so. We identified no previous examples of pledges being used to promote wellwater testing, and research is needed to determine its efficacy. The pledge will be implemented across outreach settings using a control group (no pledge) and a treatment group (pledge). Approximately six months after participating in an outreach program, the student research assistant will follow-up with phone calls to participants to determine whether testing rates were higher among participants who signed a pledge compared to those who did not.
Cooperative Extension Water Resources
University of Maine
495 College Ave
Orono, ME 04469
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Wed, Apr 9 - Northeast Biomass Heating Expo
Mon, Jun 9 - 7th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology