Local Health Project Releases Comprehensive Strategy for Monitoring Private Well Water

MCMURRAY, PA – Amidst growing concerns about the safety of water from private wells near natural gas extraction sites, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPAEHP) is releasing a comprehensive set of guidelines for monitoring and testing private wells.

SWPA-EHP is an organization dedicated to addressing the public health needs of Washington County residents who believe their health has been, or could be, impacted by natural gas industrial activities.

“Everyone deserves to have safe, clean water and we want Washington County residents to have the ability to monitor their water and know what to do when something goes wrong,” said Raina Rippel, SWPA-EHP project director. “The anxiety of living with uncertainty on something as essential as the safety of a household’s drinking water is itself a public health concern that needs to be addressed.”

The new report, “Well Water Contamination: SWPA-EHP Ranking System and Monitoring Strategy” offers residents a simple, inexpensive monitoring strategy as well as guidance on what to test for when their monitoring indicates a problem. The report also provides a ranking system, based on proximity to natural gas extraction activities and levels of contamination found in well water, which helps residents know what actions to take. Rippel said the report provides a more comprehensive approach than current state and federal recommendations which don’t consider the aggregate risks associated with combined “maximum contamination levels” (MCLs) of chemicals present in water.

“Compliance with state and federal standards is not sufficient to assess the safety of drinking water from private wells near natural gas industrial activities,” said SWPA-EHP toxicologist, Dr. David Brown. “The large number of chemicals used and the lack of knowledge of the compounding effects of multiple chemicals in the water points to the need for a much more thorough strategy.”

Dr. Leslie Walleigh, an environmental and occupational physician consultant to the project, commented, “These guidelines are offered to the public, not to replace other testing protocols that have been developed, but to augment them. Our team of physicians and researchers believes people who use well water near these industrial sites should be vigilant about the quality of the water they use every day.”

The report is available on the SWPA-EHP Web site: or by contacting the office. The SWPA-EHP office is located at 4198 Washington Road, Suite 5, in McMurray. The office is open Tuesday-Friday. Nurse Practitioner services are available by appointment only. SWPA-EHP is a nonprofit environmental health project funded by The Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Claneil Foundation.

Scroll to Top