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Test your well water regularly, Health Unit urges

SIMCOE, ON, MARCH 26, 2010 – Residents on wells should be testing their water at least three times per year, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is warning.

“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,” said Glen Steen, Healthy Environment Program Coordinator. “However, many of these private wells are not tested regularly for harmful organisms, which could make their owners sick.”

Approximately three million Ontarians depend on wells for their supply of clean, safe drinking water. Just as municipal water supply systems are routinely tested for a broad range of contaminants, private well owners should also ensure their drinking water is safe to consume by maintaining their wells properly and having them tested at least three times per year, in the spring, summer and fall, Steen urged.

Well water analysis is simple and free. Water sample bottles can be picked up and dropped off at any of four Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit offices, located in Simcoe, Caledonia, Langton and Dunnville, Monday to Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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.

“Most of the things in your water that can make you sick you can’t see, taste or smell, so you need to test,” Steen emphasized.

To detect possible problems with bacterial contamination, health officials utilize a test that analyzes water for the presence of Total Coliform (T.C.) and E. coli bacteria. Total Coliform are a general family of bacteria found in animal wastes, surface soils and vegetation. The presence of T.C. in a water sample serves as an early warning signal that there may be a problem with your water supply, specifically contamination of the water with organisms and possible surface water contamination in your well water.

E. coli is a group of bacteria that live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. A water sample testrevealing the presence of E. coli indicates recent fecal contamination of your water supply from sources such as human sewage or livestock waste.

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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Media contact:
Glen Steen
Program Coordinator
Healthy Environment Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3204 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623