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Free well testing available for wildfire-affected Oregon homes


The 2020 wildfires damaged many domestic wells in Oregon, which could contaminate drinking water for over 2,000 households. The Oregon Health Authority is providing these households with free water testing.

Curtis Cude is with the Oregon Health Authority. He says wildfires can damage wells in a number of ways.

“A lot of the wells have metal well casings, so the heat can actually conduct heat down the well and damage the pump and some other components of the well,” says Cude. “And that's bad for the pump but it also can lead to some contamination from burnt plastic parts, for example.”

The tests look for the presence of bacteria, nitrates, arsenic and chemicals that are by-products of wildfires. However, Cude says that well water testing is beneficial for more than just wildfire damage.

“The testing includes lead and nitrate and arsenic which aren't necessarily things you might get from wildfire damage,” says Cude. “It’s just a good public health practice to test your system to make sure you're not exposing yourself to these other common contaminants.”

The Oregon Health Authority says that testing is the next step after assessing well damage and doing well repairs. They’re giving testing priority to low-income households and people of color.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.