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UF Extension Program Helps Protect Wells From Pollution

Susan Williams, (352) 392-4508

GAINESVILLE—Florida residents who are poor readers or non-readers can learn how to protect their wells and septic systems from pollution with the help of a new educational program from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Until now, there simply has not been any effective information for these hard-to-reach groups about protecting drinking water in wells,” said Susan Williams, who coordinates the &quotKeep Your Well Water Clean” program for the UF’s statewide Cooperative Extension Service. “It’s something we really need because the state has 50 counties where 20 to 30 percent of the people are very poor readers.”

She said the program includes 14 color one-page information sheets in Spanish and English written on second- and third-grade reading levels. Topics include well inspection, well-water testing and septic-system maintenance. The program also warns about pollution from pesticides, fertilizers, hazardous household products, motor fuels, animal wastes and fuel storage tanks.

For people who have wells and septic systems on farms, there’s information on animal-waste disposal, pesticide spray-tank filling and plastic pesticide container recycling.

For those who cannot read, there are 14 English and Spanish videos on the same topics as the printed pages, Williams said. The videos, which can help poor readers understand the printed materials, are suitable for all audiences — no matter what their literacy level or age. Videos range in length from less than two minutes to a little more than four minutes.

“Because no one else in the nation has produced materials like these, the program has gained national attention, resulting in numerous requests from other states,” Williams said. “The materials are effective because they were pretested several times with target audiences to make sure they understood the content before final production.”

The English and Spanish printed materials are UF/IFAS Bulletins 335 and 336. Both are free as long as supplies last. The English and Spanish bulletins also can be downloaded from the following Web site: The documents and the videos are available at 67 county extension offices in Florida and from Williams in the UF soil & water science department: (352) 392-4508 or