WORCESTER, Mass. - More than half a million Massachusetts residents get their water from a private well, but some state lawmakers are concerned about what else might be flowing through their faucets. 

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Middlesex/Worcester) has introduced legislation that would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to set standards for private water quality and provide low-income homeowners with financial assistance for testing. 

What You Need To Know

  • State lawmakers are considering a bill to regulate the quality of private drinking water

  • More than 500,000 Massachusetts residents get their water from a private well

  • In more than 500 tests conducted since 2020, 32% of private wells had contaminants exceeding state health standards

  • Other states have passed similar legislation

"Right now, we're all paying state income tax, and yet a lot of rural communities that more often than not have private wells are not getting the same protection as more suburban or urban communities," Eldridge said. "So it's really about more equitable access and leveling the playing field."

Since 2020, the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts (HFCM) has helped fund more than 500 water quality tests across Massachusetts towns with high concentrations of private wells. The tests found roughly 32% of wells had levels of contaminants exceeding state health standards, and in some cases the results suggested potential health risks. 

"The longer we wait, the longer people continue to be at risk of drinking contaminated private well water," said HFCM President & CEO Amie Shei. "Many people aren't aware that their drinking water may be contaminated by PFAs, E. coli, arsenic, there are a number of contaminants that can really have harmful health impacts."

Eldridge said when homeowners dig their wells, they're often not tested for contaminants. The recently-formed Coalition for Safe Drinking Water, which includes HFCM, Community Action Works and RCAP Solutions, is also advocating for more testing standards. 

"Too many homeowners take for granted that their water is safe and clean," said RCAP Solutions President Brian Scales. "Water is all around us, we bathe in it, cook with it and drink it on a daily basis. The only way to ensure all this water is clean and safe to consume is to have it tested."

"The state regulates the wastewater leaving a home, yet it does not regulate private well water entering a home and being consumed," Shei said. "This legislation closes an important gap in access to safe drinking water."

Similar legislation to regulate private drinking water was introduced last legislative session, but failed to gain traction. Other states have passed bills to regulate private wells, including Oregon, Rhode Island and New Jersey.