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Penn State Extension's H2OSolutions app puts water-quality information at fingertip

| Sunday, June 8, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

Penn State Extension has an app for the 3 million people in Pennsylvania relying on unregulated water sources.

A team of educators at the extension, an outreach of the College of Agricultural Sciences, released H2OSolutions, which allows users to check on water quality and on potential water safety questions.

Users can look up results from private, informal tests by county, providing a general idea of the water quality in an area, said Susan Boser, one of the developers of H2OSolutions.

The app allows users to enter different characteristics of their water — such as a sulfur smell or black flecks — to find out what the problem might be. The app directs them to the closest resource for information, Boser said.

“It's kind of a jumping-off point,” she said.

Private water sources such as wells and streams are unregulated in Pennsylvania, meaning homeowners have to determine the safety of the water on their own.

About 3 million Pennsylvanians rely on private water sources, making it the state with the second-largest private water supply in the country, said Bryan Swistock, one of the leaders of the project.

“They can't rely on government regulations to help them,” he said.

The app is being marketed toward real estate professionals who deal with private water sources, Swistock said. Based on the sight and smell of the water, users can determine what testing might have to be done.

Cliff Treyens, public awareness director for the National Ground Water Association, said the organization has received inquiries about private drinking water from real estate agents.

“Realtors are actually a very important audience because they can be informed and they can help the well owner understand better the importance of safe ground water,” he said.

Treyens said house buyers and real estate agents need to understand the importance of knowing whether well water at a site is of good quality.

“Understanding the infrastructure goes along with the house,” he said. “It needs to be scrutinized just like any other aspect.”

Megan Henney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7987 or mhenney@tribweb.com.

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