Environmental Health Division strives to prevent waterborne illness transmission and contraction by:
- reviewing plans and issuing permits for private wells
- inspecting new or repaired water well systems
- ensuring proper sealing of abandoned wells
- sampling private water wells
- Investigating complaints
- providing water testing bottles $15
The water tests available from the health department test for coliform and e. coli bacteria, nitrates, and nitrites. Test kits may be purchased in our office. Test results will be received by our office in 7 to 10 days, after which we will inform the homeowner of the results.
Coliform bacteria are organisms that are present in the environment and in the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans. Coliform bacteria will not likely cause illness. However, their presence in drinking water indicates that disease-causing organisms (pathogens) could be in the water system. Most pathogens that can contaminate water supplies come from the feces of humans or animals. Testing drinking water for all possible pathogens is complex, time-consuming, and expensive. It is relatively easy and inexpensive to test for coliform bacteria. If coliform bacteria are found in a water sample, chlorination of the well is required to restore safe drinking water.
Most E. coli bacteria are harmless and are found in great quantities in the intestines of people and warm-blooded animals. Some strains, however, can cause illness. The presence of E. coli in a drinking water sample almost always indicates recent fecal contamination, meaning there is a greater risk that pathogens are present.
Nitrate is a chemical found in most fertilizers, manure and liquid waste discharged from septic tanks. Once taken into the body, nitrates are converted into nitrites. Natural bacteria in soil can convert nitrogen into nitrate. Rain or irrigation water can carry nitrate down through the soil into groundwater. Your drinking water may contain nitrate if your well draws from this groundwater. Infants who drink water with high levels of nitrate (or eat foods made with nitrate contaminated water) may develop a serious health condition due to the lack of oxygen. This condition is called methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome.” Low nitrate levels, under 10 mg/L, will not cause blue baby syndrome. Boiling water does not reduce nitrate levels.