"A state test has determined that the town of Vienna's roadside spring located just north of the fire station, has traces of coliform. The town has no plans to close the spring, but advises anyone who plans to drink the water to boil it first."
(Kennebec Journal, Aug. 24, 1996)
Everyone knows of a local spring where you can go any time of the year to get a jug full of cold, clear water. The problem is that not everyone knows if the water is safe to drink.
The owner of the land where the spring is located is responsible for ensuring that the water flowing out of the spring is safe to drink. The Drinking Water Program recommends monthly bacteria testing of all roadside springs. These tests demonstrate whether or not the spring is bacteria free. If the spring is not bacteria free, the people who use the spring must be notified and the owner must take steps to be sure the spring is not contaminated.
To determine if your favorite spring is safe, follow these steps:
- Take a hike. Take a walk from where the pipe fills your water jug to the spring itself. See if there is any debris or waste near the spring that could influence its water quality. Often people use roadside springs as dumping grounds for car waste. Drinking Water Program field staff have found diapers, garbage and other waste in close proximity to some springs. One spring had earthworms living in it.
- Examine the spring for leaks. Is the spring susceptible to rainwater or streamwater directly entering it? Is vegetation growing out through the top of the spring? Is it sealed against tampering?
- Take a bacteria test. Contact a local lab and purchase a test for total and fecal coliforms. If there are no coliforms present in the water, it is probably safe to drink.
- Contact the Drinking Water Program to see if the spring is regulated. If it is, then recent test results should be on file.
Several communities have made the effort to improve springs to meet modern water quality standards. If your community has a spring that you'd like to improve and maintain, give us a call at (207) 287-2070 and we'll put you in touch with some of these resources and offer advice about the steps you can take to make your spring safer.