Private Well Program to Protect Public Health

About the Program

The Private Well Program to Protect Public Health is a community partnership funded by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. In an ongoing effort to promote better public health and safety for Massachusetts households with private wells, RCAP Solutions is engaging with key stakeholders and state government officials to advocate for public policy that would ensure well water is tested for contaminants on a routine basis.

The program is also testing well water quality throughout Massachusetts, educating homeowners on what their water test results show, and working directly with homeowners if there is a need for remediation efforts. Using the data gathered from this program, we hope to effect change by moving the Massachusetts legislature to enact statewide private well regulations that would ensure all residents have equitable access to healthy drinking water.

Private wells can sometimes be contaminated by substances including arsenic, E. coli, radon, and uranium, which can have both short and long-term health impacts. Despite this, private wells are currently not subject to any statewide drinking water standards. RCAP Solutions is partnering with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the Montachusett Public Health Network, Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, and the Massachusetts Environmental Health Association on this important project.

For the latest updates, follow #WhatsInYourWellWater on social media.


The Value of Well Water Testing

Unlike public drinking water systems, private wells do not have experts regularly checking the water’s source and quality before it is sent to the tap. Households that use private wells should take special precautions to ensure the safety of their drinking water.

When considering well contamination problems and risks, it’s important to know what kind of well you have and how it was constructed. Knowing how water gets into your well and from what source will help you understand what you need to do to protect your groundwater source and well from adverse impacts. Through this program, RCAP Solutions can provide a complimentary water test for participating private well owners in order to identify potential contamination threats.


Well Water Testing in 2022

Below we have outlined the towns whose residents are eligible for a complimentary water test during 2022 and in which months the testing will be conducted. Water testing will be scheduled to occur during regular business hours, Monday through Friday only. Forty (40) slots are available in each town.

Not in Massachusetts? Check out our EPA Private Well Program.


How to Request a Complimentary Water Test

RCAP Solutions technical assistance providers will be performing a limited number of complimentary water tests on unregulated wells throughout the region. Well water testing identifies potential threats to your drinking water.

If you would like to receive a complimentary water test (a $200+ value) please complete the request form below or contact Lili Dagle, 508-221-7303.

Water Test Request Form (Click)

Testing Will Assess the Following:

  • Arsenic
  • Chloride
  • Copper
  • Fluoride
  • Hardness
  • Iron
  • Lead
  • Manganese
  • pH
  • Sodium
  • Coliform Bacteria
  • Nitrate/Nitrite
  • Uranium
  • Radon

RCAP Solutions will not be testing for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) through this program. Should you wish to sample your private well for PFAS at your own expense, please find a certified laboratory for water testing here.

Please note: Safety is our top priority. When visiting your home, our staff will not be going inside. We will meet you outside and instruct you on how to take a water sample from your tap.

Requests are handled on a first-come, first-served basis. When registering to receive the grant-funded services, residents will be asked for their permission to complete short surveys – one prior to and two others following the water test. Information from these surveys helps us improve our understanding of resident priorities and informs improvements to our programming. Aggregate, de-identified results will be shared with local boards of health and our partners to inform development of this program.


Advocating for Statewide Regulations

Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution established “the right to clean air and water” in 1972, and the United Nations declared safe and affordable drinking water as a human right in 2010. Statewide legislation is needed to provide similar protections for residents relying on private wells as for residents served by public water systems.

  • Over 500,000 households in Massachusetts rely on private wells for their drinking water, yet there are no statewide regulations to ensure their water is safe and free of contaminants such as arsenic, E. coli, radon, and uranium.


  • In contrast, public water systems are subject to MassDEP Drinking Water Regulations (310 CMR 22.00), which set enforceable legal standards for water quality by which public utilities are required to comply.


  • Unlike public water systems, private wells are not subject to statewide requirements for routine water quality testing.


  • Currently, MassDEP can only issue recommendations for private wells and only local Boards of Health (BOH) have the authority to establish regulations, many of which are outdated or unused. MassDEP released model BOH regulations for private wells in 2018, but they have not been widely adopted.


  • Private wells span the Commonwealth, thus there is a statewide need for change. The total number of Massachusetts towns in which 60% or more residents rely on private wells is 84.
  • Contaminants in private well water may be naturally occurring or manmade. Contaminants such as arsenic, E. coli, radon, and uranium may have short-term and/or long-term health impacts.


  • MassDEP reports that high levels of arsenic, a human carcinogen, have been found in Hampden, Worcester, and Middlesex counties.


  • A 2011 U.S. Geological Survey study estimated that about 3,300 and 5,700 private wells in east-central Massachusetts may contain uranium and arsenic, respectively, at levels that exceed state and federal standards.
Massachusetts Maximum Contaminant Levels (MMCLs) are a set of guidance levels for various contaminants that could potentially be found in drinking water. These levels are based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) federal standards for drinking water, though MassDEP has adopted more stringent standards in some cases.

There are several potential health problems that can occur if contaminated water is consumed. In addition, contaminants may impact the aesthetic of drinking water (e.g., taste, color, odor) or a home's infrastructure.


Support An Act Promoting Drinking Water Quality for All

An Act Promoting Drinking Water Quality for All (bill numbers S.2667 and HD.4693) aims to provide protections for households who rely on private wells for their drinking water. This bill would enable the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to develop a set of health-based regulations, known as the private wells code, which would provide statewide water quality standards for private drinking water wells.

The regulations themselves would be developed by drinking water experts at MassDEP, likely in consultation with a technical advisory group and with a process for public input. To maximize public benefit, the bill would require MassDEP to evaluate practices to minimize the paperwork burden for private well owners.

Learn More About Our Advocacy & Get Involved


What’s in Your Well Water? 3 Easy Steps to Drill Down Some Answers

1) What to test your water for…

Many contaminants are naturally occurring from features found in the rocks and soils of Massachusetts. These include substances like bacteria, radon, arsenic, uranium, and other minerals. For more detailed information check out MassDEP’s Guide to Water Quality Testing for Private Wells.

2) Where to go to get your water tested…

If you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water, you can contact a MassDEP-certified laboratory to have your water tested.

3) What your water test results mean…

Be Well Informed (BWI) is an online tool hosted by EPA that allows you to enter your water quality lab results and obtain information regarding any contaminant concentrations that exceed MassDEP or federal standards or guidelines that exist for public drinking water. To access the The BWI tool, and for instructions, click here.


Our Staff & Contact Information

Lili Dagle
Community Resources Project Assistant
508-221-7303

The Private Well Program to Protect Public Health is managed by Lili Dagle. She serves as the Project Coordinator and is responsible for managing communication with town officials, private well homeowners, and our partners. For more information or assistance regarding the program, please contact Lili.

Jim Starbard
Massachusetts State Lead
978-502-0227

Jim Starbard is the Lead Sanitarian for the Private Well Program to Protect Public Health. Mr. Starbard is experienced in all aspects of public health protection and promotion at the local level including inspectional services, emergency preparedness activities, and administrative duties.


Helpful Links

MassDEP

UMass Amherst

National Resources


Video: Advocating for Massachusetts Private Well Regulations


Our Partners


This program is made possible through funding from The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts