Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Gail Carlson

Second Advisor

Leeann Sullivan

Third Advisor

Jim Scott


Privately owned water is the primary source of drinking water for 43 million Americans. Although residential or private wells are susceptible to a variety of contaminants, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 positions individuals as responsible for the testing, remediation, and management of this water. Despite the elevated presence of arsenic in Maine, which is linked to various cancers, cardiovascular disease, and neurological damage, little is known about how private well owners perceive the safety and quality of their own water.

This study takes a qualitative approach to understanding concerns and opinions by conducting semi - structured interviews with private well users in the Blue Hill Peninsula, a known arsenic hot spot in Hancock County. We examined water testing and remediation behaviors, contamination concerns, opinions on government intervention, and well owners’ barriers to accessing clean drinking water. Results show that health concerns, new home ownership, and fear of ongoing contamination motivate water testing.

Perceptions of water safety are largely motivated by sense of place and social - cognitive factors. The largest barrier to accessing clean water is cost, but those who never tested previously are more likely to mention personal barriers, such as lack of time or capacity to test their water. The biggest sources of arsenic awareness include social networks, rather than government campaigns or media outlets . Participants overwhelmingly support greater government intervention. Ensuring clean drinking water, even within private wells, is widely regarded as a collective responsibility.


arsenic, Maine, well water, hot spot, cancer, geology