Amid Concerns Over Contaminants and Pending Legislation, The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts Sponsors Survey by MassINC Polling Group
Media Contact: Greg Turner, Ball Consulting Group, LLC, Phone: 617-243-9950; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A new public opinion survey released today by the MassINC Polling Group finds broad support among Massachusetts residents for strengthening drinking water protections for private wells to ensure safety and quality. The survey was sponsored by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts as part of its Private Well Program to Protect Public Health led by grantee RCAP Solutions.
More than 500,000 Massachusetts residents rely on private wells for their drinking water, yet, unlike with public water systems, these sources are not subject to any statewide regulations or testing requirements. With manmade and naturally occurring contaminants found in private well water across the state, this gap and higher risk of exposure has prompted growing concern and calls for legislative action.
According to the poll, 73% of Massachusetts residents think well water should be protected in the same way as other sources of drinking water. Nearly all of those polled agree that all Massachusetts residents should have access to safe drinking water (97%) and that state government should play a role in achieving that goal (92%). There was a clear majority supporting these statements, regardless of demographics or party affiliation.
The poll also found a worrisome gap in well water testing rates. Only 21% of well users had tested their water in the past year and another 21% were not sure when their water was last tested. Just over half (53%) of well users reported they had not paid anything for well testing or maintenance in the past year.
Other key findings from the survey:
- Three-quarters (75%) support proposed legislation to enable the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to develop statewide private well protections.
- There was even stronger support (80%) when it was explained that the proposed legislation includes financial support for remediation of contamination for low-income homeowners with private wells.
- A clear majority (57%) “strongly support” testing well water before a home is sold, and 72% of private well owners support such a policy to some extent (“strongly support” or “somewhat support”).
“The results of this poll demonstrate widespread support for improving access to safe drinking water and for developing greater protections and uniform testing standards for private well owners throughout the Commonwealth,” said Amie Shei, President and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. “All Massachusetts residents should have access to safe drinking water regardless of where they live and whether they have access to public water systems or private wells.”
Many homeowners in Massachusetts are facing substantial costs over contamination found in their private wells, including water sources exposed to PFAS, synthetic substances known as “forever chemicals” because of their persistence and prevalence in the environment.
The poll results were unveiled today during a legislative briefing at the State House organized by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, RCAP Solutions, and the Coalition for Safe Drinking Water which was launched as part of this project. The event highlighted pending legislation, An Act Promoting Drinking Water Quality for All (S.482/H.902), sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Marlborough), Rep. Dan Sena (D-Acton) and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox). The bill is scheduled for a public hearing before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Sept. 27.
The survey took a deep dive into general perceptions of public and well water quality. Majorities at least somewhat agree that they worry about whether their water is safe to drink (61%) and that not everyone in Massachusetts has safe tap water (63%).
In an urban-rural breakdown of the data, those living in western Massachusetts – where private wells are more common – and in Suffolk County – home to the city of Boston and served by a public water supply – rated their water quality at home as “excellent” at higher rates than those living in other parts of the state. But those living in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities – midsize urban areas served by public water and historically affected by socioeconomic challenges – reported their home tap water quality levels are lower than elsewhere.
The results are based on a survey of 1,013 Massachusetts residents by the MassINC Polling Group. Responses were collected via online survey Aug. 7-16, 2023, in English and Spanish. Data was weighted to known and estimated population parameters on age, gender, race, party identification, education and geography. The credibility interval for the survey is +/- 3.4 percentage points, including the design effect.
Detailed poll data is available online at the following link: https://www.massincpolling.com/the-topline/water-quality-poll