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Outside/In: Magical Drinking & Frost Heaves

Taylor Quimby

Today on Outside/In, a 2018 trend of "raw water" sparks a road-trip investigation of New Hampshire's roadside springs, and producer Justine Paradis looks into the etymology of the "frost heave". 

  Magical Drinking

Taylor Quimby & Sam Evans-Brown

It’s not much to look at: a dead-end road; a small concrete springhouse; a plastic pipe that juts out of broken pavement. Still, Jailhouse Spring in Exeter, New Hampshire, is something of a sacred place.

Discerning palates might be able detect a certain mineral flatness, or, at least, an absence of chlorine in the water, but people don’t simply come here for the taste. Jailhouse Spring has been a source of clean drinking water since the town founder took up residence not far away in 1638. The spring has supplied local schools and the local lockup with H20 (hence the name), and was even the site of agrisly suicide in the early 20th century.  Exeter is, of course, now supplied with potable tap water pumped from a nearby river, treated, and then piped out to some 11,000 residents. Still, many people choose to drink from Jailhouse Spring, the longest-serving water source in town.

Credit Taylor Quimby
Jailhouse Spring in Exeter

On most days, you’ll find a steady stream of folks filling up every manner of plastic and glass container.

One man told me he uses it to water the “vegetables” he’s growing in his basement. Another said she’d been getting her drinking water exclusively from Jailhouse Spring since the ‘60s. They’re both avoiding contaminants and chemicals found in the town tap –   

As of 2018, when this story was first produced, quarterly reportsfrom the Exeter Water Department show the public water here is carcinogenic.   But when asked what makes them so sure that the spring is any healthier than the tap, one townsperson replied, “because it comes from the ground, and it hasn’t been run through treatments. It just seems like it must be pure.”

For thousands of years some natural spring waters have been associated with health. But something called the “raw water movement” has scientists and health officials reminding the public that drinking from untested springs can make you sick.  Today, we try to sort it all out: are springs a source for unadulterated H20, or a passing fad and a dangerous throwback?

To read the whole story, click here.

Featuring Daniel Vitalis, Frank Chappelle, Brian Pullen, Seth Puzansky, and Paul Roy.

What Are Frost Heaves? 

Justine Paradis

Jeanne Sokolowski never encountered a "frost heave" before she moved to New Hampshire. The erratic spring road bumps are common here; more of a nuisance than a curiosity for most. But for Sokolowski, it wasn't just the unfamiliar topography.

The proliferation of road signs - FROST HEAVES, in blaze orange - struck her as unique. And she wasn't alone.

Credit Tink Taylor

"I posted a photo of one of these signs (on Facebook) and my friends and family from the Midwest and elsewhere chimed in, saying how unusual that was," she says.

In this segment, which aired originally on NHPR's "Only in NH" series, producer Justine Paradis tries to get to the bottom of Jeanne’s question How and when did the term 'frost heaves' originate? And is this a phenomenon unique to New Hampshire?

To read the whole story, click here.

Featuring Malcom “Tink” Taylor, Don Brown, and Jeanne Sokolowski.

Outside/In is a show where curiosity and the natural world collide. Click here for podcast episodes and more.
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