The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


April 14, 2012

Be careful: That clear, tasty spring water might be filthy

---- — “Water, water everywhere; nor any drop to drink ...”   The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

OK, PRETTY MUCH everyone knows that you don’t drink salt water. As we recognize the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I’m sure that even a century ago those surviving passengers realized that.

But how much do you know about the water you drink right now? For example: How many readers drive to one of the roadside springs in Pennsylvania and fill jugs?

I’ve seen cars lined up along the road at some of them. I even drank spring water a couple of times years ago. But I guarantee you, I’ll never do it again!

“One-hundred percent of the roadside springs failed bacteria testing and are often unsafe,” said Bryan Swistock of Penn State University in speaking at a Drinking Water Clinic hosted by Gary W. Micsky, Penn State Extension educator, at the Mercer County office recently.

Swistock pointed out that the water tastes great because it has lots of minerals that you don’t get in public water systems. But guess what, it also contains coliform and E. coli bacteria that you don’t find there either. And both can be harmful to your health.

They are caused by decaying dead animals and insects as well as animal waste that gets into the water. Since only dogs seem to enjoy drinking toilet water, I think I’ll avoid roadside springs in the future.

One of the major concerns we read about constantly today are that the natural gas drilling process of fracking will contaminate well water. Really? According to Swistock that hasn’t proven out yet. “There are very few problems with wells around fracking from testing we’ve done,” said Swistock.

But he points out that it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have their wells tested regularly, especially in areas where there could be some kind of contamination.

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