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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Temple: WET Trial Explores Rates of Illness from Drinking Untreated Private Well Water

Nationwide, approximately 48 million people use private wells, including nearly 3 million in Pennsylvania. The water quality from these largely untreated wells is not federally regulated, and there have been few studies on both the extent and the source of microbial contamination in private wells.

In a new randomized controlled trial, Dr. Heather Murphy, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in Temple University College of Public Health, will research the effects of drinking untreated well water on children ages three or under—effects that include gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms from norovirus, Giardia, Salmonella, pathogenic E. coli, and more. Dr. Murphy and her research team hope to learn whether treating the well water could reduce the incidence of such illnesses.

“Although people think well water is safe, in most instances it likely needs to be treated,” said Dr. Murphy. Currently, private wells are unregulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which only recommends annual testing for indicator bacteria to assess microbiological contamination — a recommendation that Dr. Murphy says is insufficient, considering contamination levels can change drastically from day to day.

According to Dr. Murphy, this is the first randomized controlled trial of its kind looking specifically at private well water supplies. The study, known as the Wells and Enteric Disease Transmission Trial (WET Trial), will examine the incidence of acute gastrointestinal illnesses and respiratory infections in children of families who use private wells for drinking water.

Read more at the College of Public Health.

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