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Class to focus on how to care for well and septic systems

Residents with a well or septic system can learn more about keeping their systems safe and trouble-free in an hourlong community class offered by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The free "Care and Feeding of Your Well & Septic System" classes will be offered at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave., Medford; at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at the Ruch library, 7919 Highway 238, Ruch; 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at the Central Point library, 116 S. Third St., Central Point; 11 a.m. Saturday, April 9, at the Applegate library, 18485 N. Applegate Road, Applegate; and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Audrey Eldridge, a DEQ hydrogeologist, and Amy Patton, former DEQ groundwater program manager, will conduct the training.

Well owners may bring a half-cup sample of untreated well water to class in a clean, watertight, glass jar to have their water screened for nitrate concentrations.

If your well water receives softening or treatment of some kind, please try to take the sample from a pre-treatment spigot.

The Oregon DEQ and the Health Division of the Department of Human Services have identified areas of elevated nitrates in groundwater in the Rogue Valley.

The areas at greatest risk for high nitrate concentrations in groundwater are those with well-drained soils on the valley floor, although high levels of nitrate have been found in other areas as well.

All homes supplied by private wells should conduct regular tests for nitrate and coliform bacteria.

The EPA has set a limit of 10 parts per million for nitrate in drinking water. Nitrate levels above this may present serious health concerns for infants and pregnant or nursing women. Little is known about the long-term effects on adults of drinking water with elevated nitrates.

An additional concern is that groundwater containing high nitrate concentrations can indicate that other contaminants may be present in the water.

For more information on wells, water testing, and septic systems, visit http://wellwater.oregonstate.edu.

For information and ideas about protecting the groundwater that supplies drinking water for many Oregonians, visit DEQ's website at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/groundwater.