Exeter ends nitrate drinking water warning

The drinking water warning issued by the city of Exeter in May ends as the well with high nitrate levels is taken offline

EXETER – Exeter officially put an end to their drinking water warning after swapping well 6’s production that included high nitrate levels with well 9 that was recently rehabilitated.

The drinking water warning due to high levels of nitrates from well 6 in Exeter has been lifted. Women who are pregnant and infants could safely drink the city’s water as of July 14, ending the two month warning period. 

The warning was lifted after the city’s alternative well – well 9 – became fully operational. It had been undergoing rehabilitation work to prepare for high demand in the summer months. While well 9 was offline, all other wells had to remain online in order to meet peak hour water pressure demands. Unfortunately, that meant the city was forced to keep well 6 in production.

“We minimized the amount of time well 6 ran,” city manager Adam Ennis said. “It was only on for a couple of hours a day, but we still had to issue the warning.”

Now that well 9 is fully operational, well 6 has been taken offline while the city works to fix the high levels of nitrates. Once the city has an opportunity to assess the issue, they’ll have a better idea of how long it will take to solve the problem.

“There are some subtle things we have to look at to see what we need to do to clear up the nitrates,” Ennis said. “Then we’ll know how long it will take to fix it.”

Well 9 was out of service for two months as it underwent rehabilitation efforts in preparation for high summer time demand. Scheduling issues with contractors who could replay the well led to more delays. Then, when repairs were complete, the well had to undergo post-repair testing before it could be brought back online. Failed bacterial tests caused further delays.

While well 9 was offline, the city used well 6 to keep up with water demand, even though it tested high for nitrates. The well tested at 11 parts per million (ppm) for nitrates, just above the 10 ppm limit for nitrates according to state mandates.

If a well tests above the state mandated limit and remains in use, cities are required to issue a drinking water notice because nitrates can be dangerous for pregnant women and infants. 

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