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Is Public Perception of Water Quality Accurate in Northwestern Louisiana?


As part of a groundwater study of the Wilcox Aquifer over the Haynesville natural gas play that lies in northwestern Louisiana, where hydraulic fracturing is common, a questionnaire asking domestic well owner's perception of the changes in their water quality was sent to approximately 3000 homes in the study area. The results of the questionnaires and water chemistry were analyzed in regards to variations of water quality to identify if there were statistically significant relationships between groundwater quality and their questionnaire responses.

Approximately 1100 questionnaires were returned with well owner perceptions of their water quality and reports if water treatment systems were added to improve household water quality. Well water was analyzed in the laboratory for approximately 20 ions. Ion values were determined using the Louisiana Geological Survey's Dionex ICS–1000 Ion Chromatography System for fluoride, chloride, bromide, nitrate, nitrite, and sulfate, and the Louisiana State University Department of Wetland Biochemistry's ICP– OES model MPX Inductively Coupled Plasma–Optical Emission Spectrometer for arsenic, barium, boron, cadmium, calcium, chromium, iron, manganese, magnesium, sodium, nickel, phosphorous, rubidium, silicon, strontium, and zinc.

The well owners' responses were compared with the analytical results of the ions and parameters listed under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency secondary and primary drinking water standards. Comparisons of populations were made using two statistical techniques: Mann-Whitney Ranks and Median tests. The results indicated that there was a statistically significant increase of select ions when owners perceived inferior water quality.