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Some help for Yakima Valley residents with bad wells

Anna King
Sandy Halstead, of the Environmental Protection Agency, and a summer intern, listen to the concerns of a homeowner in the Yakima Valley. Many private wells in the Eastern Washington agricultural area are polluted with nitrates.

Residents with contaminated wells in the Yakima Valley are getting state-funded purification systems, at least some of them are. Many families there have been drinking water polluted with nitrates and bacteria.

Nitrate is a chemical found in fertilizers, manure and septic tank liquids. You can’t taste it, smell it or see it – but it kills. It reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. And nitrate is in a lot of water throughout the rural Northwest. In Yakima Valley a $500,000 state grant is buying purification systems for 300 to 400 households. But 1,600 families need assistance there. That estimate comes from Vern Redifer with Yakima County Public Services:

“We’re not going to be able to help everybody. We don’t know if there is going to be any more money coming into this program or not. This is a onetime pilot program. What we are offering is a reduced cost. If we can’t buy them for them, we’re going to sell them to them at a reduced cost.”

Redifer says even if all the nitrate pollution in the Yakima Valley stopped today, it would still take decades to reach national drinking water standards.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.