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New Law Requires Sellers to Test for Arsenic in Well Water

Many properties throughout our rural areas have wells for their primary source of drinking water. Effective January 1, 2010, sellers are required to test for arsenic in certain wells upon accepting an offer.

This year, the Oregon State Legislature passed Senate Bill 739, which requires testing for arsenic be added to the required tests for coliform bacteria and nitrate in well water. The tests are required for any property transaction that includes a well providing ground water for human consumption.

Arsenic has been added to the required tests because it is a natural contaminant common in Oregon and because drinking water with high levels of arsenic causes an increased risk of many health problems such as cancer, diabetes and harmful effects to the heart, nervous and circulator systems. Public water systems are required to routinely test for arsenic.

The law requires a seller to submit test results of the water to both the Department of Human Services and the buyer within 90 days of receiving the test results. Testing must be performed by a state-accredited laboratory.

State law also requires that all private wells not already registered with the state be registered at the time a property is transferred. Click here for more information on the state well registration program.

If domestic water is supplied by a private well, a buyer should verify to the extent possible whether the well provides adequate water for domestic needs. It is strongly recommended that a well flow test be conducted prior to the purchase of any property that depends on a well for domestic water. Careful attention should be paid to any disclosures or representations by a seller. Buyers should review all available well records. More information on well logs is available at the Oregon State Water Resources Department.

Even when wells are inspected and tested, it is impossible to guarantee a continued supply of water. Catastrophic events can and do occur that can change the well quality virtually overnight. Other events, such as development and drought, can affect the quality of an aquifer over time. Any test of a well is merely a snapshot in time and is not an indication of a well’s performance in the future. Any kind of well report should be viewed in this light.

If you are a buyer, be aware that you should have a professional inspection, review the well log and flow tests as they are critical in determining the functionality of that private well.

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