SIMCOE, MAY 4, 2012 – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is encouraging well owners to test their water at least three times per year for harmful bacteria. For those well owners who have not tested their water in months, or years, spring is a great time to start, as the first sample after the winter snow and early spring thaw is the most likely to highlight problems.
“Water quality can change over the course of a year, so testing your well water three times each year will keep you updated on the quality of your drinking water,” noted Sandy Stevens, Program Coordinator for the Health Unit’s Healthy Environment Team.
The rural landscape of Haldimand and Norfolk counties means a substantial percentage of local residents rely on private wells as their source of drinking water.
Typically, groundwater is naturally clean and safe for consumption. The overlying soil acts as a natural filter, removing disease-causing microorganisms from the water. However, contamination can occur following improper installation of well casings or caps, after a break in the casing or as a result of contaminated surface water entering the well.
“Along with properly maintaining your well, regular testing is the best strategy for ensuring safe water,” added Stevens. “Most of the things in your water that can make you sick you can’t see, taste or smell, so you need to test.”
Luckily, the well water analysis is simple and free. Water sample bottles can be picked up during business hours at any of four Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit offices, located in Simcoe, Caledonia, Langton and Dunnville. After following the instructions to fill the bottle, the sample can be dropped off at a Health Unit office from Monday to Thursday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The sample is sent to a laboratory where it is tested for Total Coliform (T.C.) and E. Coli bacteria.
Total Coliform bacteria are present in animal wastes, sewage, and are also found in soil and vegetation. Their presence in a well’s water supply may indicate that surface water is entering and contaminating the well.
E. coli are found only in the digestive systems of humans and animals. Their presence in well water is usually the result of human or animal waste contamination from a nearby source.
In addition to regular testing, well water should be tested after any repairs to a well, if a well has not been used for several weeks, or if there has been flooding on or near the well owner’s property. A change in well water’s taste, colour or odour, while not necessarily a health risk, may also signal contamination or deteriorating water quality and a water sample test should be completed as soon as possible.
Owners of private wells are legally responsible for keeping their wells maintained, ensuring that nothing gets into the well that could contaminate their water source. As groundwater is a shared resource that crosses property lines, contamination from one well can put other wells at risk.
For additional information about safe water or the water analysis process, contact the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623, or visit www.hnhu.org.
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Program Coordinator, Healthy Environment Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3216 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623