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Partner Blog

Information of use to those who serve private well owners.

Jerry Tinoco Discusses Reaching Spanish-Speaking Communities

Jerry Tinoco Discusses Reaching Spanish-Speaking Communities

The Private Well Class is currently putting effort forth to translate many of our resources to Spanish. The real challenge that we have encountered is getting these resources out the individuals that could really use them. We reached out to Gerardo “Jerry” Tinoco Jr. to interview him about his efforts in predominantly Spanish speaking communities. Jerry is a Rural Development Specialist for the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) and currently resides in California. Jerry works with Spanish speaking populations and provides many services in Spanish for private well owners.


Q: What is your current position and role in regards to your program working with Spanish-speaking communities?

JT: Currently I work in various capacities with Spanish speaking communities. I work both in private well related programs as well as in non-private well related programs. For my private well work, I mostly work in educating and outreaching to private well owners. I have conducted private well assessments and water quality sampling for Spanish speaking well owners and plan to hold a private well class for Spanish speaking communities dependent on private well systems. I also translate resources, factsheets, presentations, etc.

Q: What sort of situations do you encounter most often with working with a predominantly Spanish-speaking community that relies on private well water as a primary source of drinking water?:

JT: There is a general lack of basic operation and maintenance with most private well communities, both Spanish speaking and not. People are just unaware about the things they should be doing to not only ensure their well runs efficiently and effectively for a long time, but also what they should do to protect groundwater. Oftentimes, people are renters on properties with private wells and thus never really get invested in the maintenance of their private well system. I think this general lack of knowledge is fairly common in any private well community, Spanish speaking or not.


Q: Can you please highlight some challenges that partners may come across in private well outreach in Spanish-speaking populations?

JT: Unfortunately given the current political climate, I think one of the biggest challenges in working to outreach for private wells in Spanish speaking populations is simply gaining their trust. In working with Spanish speaking populations, one needs to be mindful that some may have a general suspicion of people going to their homes. But aside from that, a common challenge for any private well outreach is conveying the importance to their health and finances that properly operating and maintaining a well system has.


Q: In your experience, what is the best way to raise awareness about private well care in these populations? Does geographical location matter?

JT: In my experience, attending existing/established meetings in communities seems to be a good starting off point to raise awareness. Going to a local PTA meeting, being a guest at adult school classes, attending local organizing group meetings, or local government meetings to give brief presentations to spark people’s interest and convey the importance of well care. Once some interest and trust is established, then I would feel more secure in hosting a private well class and giving them more in depth information as well as maybe doing well assessments. There are of course easier ways, such as an ad in a newspaper or fliers around town, but to me this trust building and getting to know the community is the best.

Q: What sort of partnerships or collaboration that you have been a part of has made reaching out to these folks easier?

JT: As I mentioned before, partnering up with schools, local organizing groups, local non-profits, or any other groups involved in the community to help build that trust to allow the community to familiarize themselves with you and want to have a more in depth discussion about maintaining their private well. I often work with other partner non-profits on projects outside of private wells, but when a working relationship is established they’ll usually invite me out and do the outreach themselves of people interested in learning more about private wells.


Q: Can you describe what you believe to be one of your program’s largest successes?

JT: We are barely starting to focus more of our attention on Spanish speaking well communities so I feel our biggest success is yet to come since we have been mostly working with communities on other issues affecting them. So far they’ve been more isolated examples of success helping individual well owners learn more about their wells, getting people with dry wells low interest loans to drill new wells, or showing new well owners best practices to maintain a healthy well system. I do think simply translating a lot of existing resources and information has really helped as well.


Q: In your opinion, what’s the number one thing that partners can do in order to do a better job of outreach in Spanish-speaking communities?

JT: I think the most important and basic thing anyone can do to increase outreach in Spanish-speaking communities is simply to put resources and a deliberate effort to reach out in Spanish speaking communities. It sounds obvious, but honestly simply just trying will yield results. Often times, outreach efforts are not accessible to Spanish speaking communities or poor/rural areas in general as well. Invitations and fliers will be in English only which already will not get you any Spanish speaking well owners. If the workshops themselves are in English only, that too will deter people from attending. In rural areas, e-vites or online webinars/factsheets may not be accessible to many. So as simple as it sounds I think the number one thing that we can all do is to allocate resources specifically for the purpose of educating Spanish-speaking communities. Put out fliers and invitations in Spanish. Outreach door to door in Spanish. Host Spanish meetings and workshops. Not translated by interpreters, but actually taught and led in Spanish.


FAQ: "Water from a Public Water Supply versus a Private Well?"

Question

What are the differences between getting water from a public water supply (PWS) versus from a private well?

Answer

The public water supply is regulated so that the water being served to their customers is safe to drink.  A private well is not regulated and as the well owner, it is their responsibility to make sure the water is safe to drink.

Water from a public water supply must be tested to ensure it meets the USEPA Safe Water Act Regulations. The water is sampled at regular intervals for priority contaminants as identified by the USEPA.  These harmful constituents all have maximum contaminant levels (MCL’s) that are allowed by law, so the public water supply can only serve water that is below the MCL’s for all of the priority contaminants.  The primary drinking water standards can be found here:  https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/table-regulated-drinking-water-contaminants. A private well generally has no legal requirements for water quality, and in general most health professionals recommend that the water quality of a private well meet the MCL’s, but that is simply a suggestion.  There may be some sampling requirements when a property is sold that has a well, and when a new well is drilled, but there is no continuing requirement to maintain a specific water quality of a private well like there is for a PWS.

A public water supply is required to have a responsible operator in charge (ROIC) who has a legal responsibility to make sure the water is safe. They have a water operator’s license, which they obtained by passing an operators exam, and they have to maintain that license by taking continuing education classes as required by their state/ jurisdiction.  A private well owner is solely responsible for the maintenance and safety of their water supply.

The homeowner pays a fee for their water when they are hooked up to a PWS.  That fee, spread across all of the customers of the PWS, pays for the operator and their staff, sampling costs, maintenance costs to provide water to the home, and for any treatment needed to remove harmful contaminants to below the levels identified by the MCL’s.  For a homeowner with a private well, you are solely responsible for all costs related to testing, maintaining, and running your water system.

If you have a choice, we recommend hooking up to a PWS.  Having a professional overseeing the water you drink is generally safer, and you are sharing the costs with everyone else on the same PWS.  HUD and FHA loans require that you look to a PWS for water, if it is feasible, for just that reason.  It ensures a safe water supply that is regulated.  Many private well owners are so because they have no choice, there is no PWS nearby to hook onto.  That’s ok, there are 14 million private wells in use in the US, and the vast majority provide a safe, steady supply of water.  It just means that a private well owner has to be a responsible steward of their well and water supply.  They have to understand how their well works, how to maintain their well, and what steps are necessary to ensure a safe water supply.