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Cistern (Drinking water) Investigation

In June 2004, ODH completed a targeted cistern sampling investigation in Washington County. Most area residents use wells or city water, which would not be affected by chemicals in air, for their drinking water supply. Residents who used rainwater cisterns as a drinking water source and for cooking and showering were, however, concerned that manganese and other metals in air might be deposited into their water supply. Cistern samples were collected to measure the levels of metals found in these potential drinking water sources. This testing was carried out as a part of the investigation of air emissions surrounding the former Union Carbide complex. Based upon the 2004 air modeling results, Warren Township residents whose household water came from cisterns and who lived within 3 miles of the former Union Carbide complex were chosen to take part in the cistern sampling.

A total of nine households volunteered for cistern testing. In all nine cistern samples, laboratory tests measured the water for arsenic; aluminum; barium; calcium; chromium; cooper; iron; magnesium; manganese; nickel; potassium; sodium; strontium; zinc, and lead. In four of the nine homes sampled, as a part of the lab analysis additional testing was done for E.coli and for total coliform bacteria.

Based on the test results of the rain water cistern samples collected, the levels of metals detected in the cistern water are not high enough to cause health effects to the residents. In one household, however, the detection of zinc slightly exceeded the U.S. EPA Lifetime Health Advisory Levels for drinking water. However, a member of this household stated the cistern water is used for clothes washing only—not for drinking or cooking.

Yet ODH did discover that three of the four cisterns sampled contained E. coli and total coliform at levels that potentially could cause disease.  ODH warned residents of this finding and supplied a document entitled Plans for Developing a Rainwater Cistern or Hauled Water Supply [PDF - 399 KB] as a guideline for improving the water quality and safety of these water supplies.

Cistern Sampling Map

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