The Illinois State Water Survey organized and hosted the 2nd National Private Well Conference May 21-23, 2019 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This effort was led by Steve Wilson and includes Katie Buckley, Walt Kelly, Hideyuki Terashima, and Jennifer Wilson, all of the ISWS Groundwater Science section.
The team’s unique position as managers of a national private well program (PrivateWellClass.org) has fostered relationships around the country with experts and stakeholders. The conference aimed to bring together these practitioners to share their successes and experience for the benefit of the private well community. Topics included effective well owner outreach, diagnosing common problems, home treatment, and septic management. Partnerships were highlighted throughout the conference as core to addressing private well issues.
Conference attendees found great value in not only the much-needed educational content, but also in forming relationships with a diversity of colleagues from around the country. “There are so many different solutions to the common challenges. Hearing many perspectives on the same ideas is key,” one attendee said. “It was nice to have such a multidisciplinary group in attendance,” said another participant.
Another attendee echoed the positive praise. “This has been one of the most satisfying, informative conferences I have had the pleasure of attending.”
Responding to this feedback, Steve Wilson said “This conference is not about us. It’s about elevating the national conversation and making sure well owners get the education they need to protect their family’s health.” One participant underscored the importance of professional events like this conference, sharing her surprise at “how much amazing work is going on across the country and how willing (and eager) people are to share their materials, models, and lessons learned.”
Private well professionals in attendance included local environmental health professionals, cooperative extension educators, federal agencies, state regulators, researchers, laboratories, and groundwater industry professionals. There were over 120 attendees from 33 states at the event, which featured 25 presentations, a driller's panel, and a dozen 5-minute lightning talks. The conference was recorded by staff from the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL) and videos will be online by the end of summer.
The conference was organized in collaboration with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership with funding from the U.S. EPA.