Private well water owners are responsible for regularly testing well water. Both natural sources and human activities can contaminate wells and cause short or long term health effects. You cannot taste, see or smell most contaminants.
Why Test for Contaminants?
Nitrate: Nitrate is found in chemical fertilizers, human sewage, fertilizers and animal waste. They contaminate a private well through groundwater movement and surface water seepage and water run-off. Nitrate can cause "blue baby syndrome" as these substances reduce the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Infants below six months of age who drink water with high levels of nitrate can become seriously ill and die.
Heavy Metals: These metals can leach into drinking water from household plumbing and service lines, mining operations, petroleum refineries, electronics manufacturers, municipal waste disposal, cement plants, and natural mineral deposits. Heavy metals include arsenic, antimony, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, selenium and more. Metals can contaminate well water with groundwater movements, surface water seepage, and run-offs. People that consume high levels of heavy metals risk acute and chronic toxicity, liver, kidney, and intestinal damage, anemia, and cancer.
Microorganisms: Microorganisms can include bacteria, viruses, and parasites. People that consume drinking water containing microorganisms can experience gastrointestinal illnesses and infections. Water run-off from rainfall or snow-melt can contaminate private wells by washing microorganisms into the well system or seeping underground. Leakage of waste from underground storage tanks and effluent from septic leach fields can reach water sources and result in microorganisms being present in water wells.
Organic Chemicals: These chemicals are found in many household products and are used widely in agriculture and industry. They can be found in inks, dyes, pesticides, paints, pharmaceuticals, solvents, petroleum products, sealants, and disinfectants. Organic chemicals can enter groundwater and contaminate private wells through waste disposal, spills, and surface water run-offs. People that consume high levels of organic chemicals may suffer from damage to their kidneys, liver, circulatory system, nervous system, and reproductive system.
More information on these contaminates can be found at the Environmental Protection Agency's website.
How to Test for Contaminants
Use an accredited laboratory to test your water. Contact a laboratory to get sample containers and instructions. The laboratory can answer questions about how to take samples, cost, and how long it will take to receive your results. The Minnesota Department of Health has a list of accredited labs.
Tips for a Healthy Well
- Test your water according to the Minnesota Department of Health
- Coliform Bacteria- every year
- Nitrate- every other year
- Arsenic- at least once
- Lead- at least once
- Manganese- before a baby drinks the water
- Inspect your well regularly
- damage, well caps, connections
- Protect your well
- Keep top of well at least one foot above ground
- Keep well area clear of debris
- Maintain minimum isolation distances from contamination sources
- Mark your well with flags or posts to protect it from being hit by vehicles or machinery
- Take precautions before and after floods
Seal unused wells to prevent creating a pathway for contaminates to get into the groundwater supply.
As of January 1, 2020, water test kits may be purchased for only $35 from Mille Lacs County Community and Veterans Services. Please call Community and Veterans Services at 320-983-8208 for more information.
Well Water and Your Baby
Babies are at a greater risk of harm from water contaminants. Test your well water before or during pregnancy. The only way to know if your well water is safe is to have it tested by an accredited laboratory. Babies drink more water for their size than older children and adults. Babies developing brains and organs can be injured or damaged more easily and their bodies are not very good at getting rid of harmful substances. Some contaminants can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy.