Friday, March 22, 2019

Spring…is that you?

Spring showers bring May flowers, but, combined with run-off from melting snow, they can also leave your private well water at risk for contamination. If you get your drinking water from a private well, here’s what you need to know.

In Clinton County, 28% of residents get their drinking water from private sources, such as wells, which we (the Health Department) do not oversee. To assist these residents, we began offering water testing to homeowners in 2017. With funding from the Clinton County Soil & Water Conservation District, this program was able to continue in 2018. Of the 109 samples collected from private wells in 2018, one-third (36%) tested positive for total coliform bacteria.

Why does it matter? Even if your water looks, smells and tastes fine, the only way to know if the water in your home is safe to drink is by testing it. Contaminants, such as bacteria, viruses or other pollutants, may be getting into your water. Coliform bacteria are found in the soil, in water that has been contaminated by surface water, and in human and animal wastes. If coliform bacteria are found in water, it means that the water system is not properly sealed, and may be unsafe. In other words, if total coliform bacteria can get into your water, then other bacteria that can make you ill may also be able to get into, or already be in, your water.

When should you test your drinking water? If you are not on public water and get your water from a private source, such as a well, we (the Clinton County Health Department) recommend testing your drinking water:
  • Yearly for bacteria and nitrates. 
  • At least every three years for other water contaminants to make sure nothing has changed. Long-term exposure to even low levels of contaminants can effect your health.
  • When you are expecting a baby.
  • When your water changes in smell, taste, or color. If this happens, drink bottled water and call us at 518-565-4870 to find out which tests you should do. 
  • If you perform any maintenance on your water system, like install a new pump, new water softener or make other repairs. Test for bacteria after disinfecting and flushing. 
  • If you put in a water treatment system to fix a problem. Test the treated water each year for that problem (contaminant) to ensure treatment is working properly.
    Drilled Well with a sanitary cap.

What else? Spring is also a good time to assess the condition of your private well. Start by checking the area around your well—keep it clean and free of animal waste and other pollution. Check your well’s cap—it should have a tight fitting sanitary (waterproof) cap in place. Make sure the well casing extends above ground level to prevent flooding of the well head. Lastly, keep possible sources of contamination, such as septic systems, manure storage piles, and fuel oil tanks, as far away from your well as possible.

If you are a homeowner and would like to have your well water sampled by CCHD, click here to sign up. We also created videos to help homeowners understand their wells, which are now available on our YouTube channel here.

Stay “well”!

Tim Simonette
Senior Public Health Sanitarian
Environmental Health & Safety Division