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How Well is Your Well?

Tanya Musgrave C.P.H.I.(C)

For those of us who have our own well, it’s easy to take the quality of our water for granted. Maybe it was tested when it was new, maybe a few samples have been taken many years ago and maybe it has never been tested.

The quality of your water is important and is directly related to your health. Many instances of illness due to contaminated water have occurred throughout history. The water-related illnesses in Walkerton are the most recent large-scale event in Ontario. Although this event involved a municipal water supply, it was actually an issue with their wells and improper treatment that caused the bacterial contamination in the first place.

Diseases such as E. Coli infection, typhoid fever and cryptosporidiosis are among dozens of examples of disease caused by bacteria, protozoa, parasites and viruses. Then there are the chemicals in your water. These chemicals can exist naturally in groundwater and others can be introduced to your well by a spill, for example. Most exist within the safe range but others may put you at risk. Arsenic, sodium and lead, among others, can all be harmful if the concentration is high enough. Other chemicals such as manganese, iron and sulphur, although harmless, can produce odours, corrosion or discoloration of your plumbing fixtures.

Taking a water sample is an easy procedure and can indicate a problem with your well. For homeowners, the Public Health Laboratory will test your water for bacteria. Special water bottles are available at every Porcupine Health Unit office with instructions on how to take and send your sample. We recommend that you test your water every year or after any repairs to your water system. There is no cost to have your water tested for bacteria at the Public Health Laboratory. However, you will need to contact a private laboratory in order to test for chemicals. There is usually a cost for those services.

Any problems, what we call adverse water reports, are followed-up by public health inspectors where we offer advice and recommendations in order to help you to make sure your water is safe. It’s relatively easy to insure the quality of your well water. Call the Porcupine Health Unit Inspection Services if you have any questions — we’re here to help!