OSWEGO – All of us need clean water to drink. If your family gets drinking water from a private well, do you know if the water is safe? What health risks do you and your family face? Where can you go for help or advice?
“Contaminated water can be a threat to your health. If your drinking water comes from a household well, you alone are responsible for assuring that it is safe,” said Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County Public Health Director. “Protect your private well area by being careful about disposal of household and lawn care chemicals and waste, making sure the well is protected from domestic and wild animal waste, and taking steps to reduce erosion and surface water run-off.”
The Oswego County Health Department, along with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend testing private wells for coliform bacteria once a year.
The EPA also recommends testing for nitrates annually.
Infants below six months who drink water containing nitrates could become seriously ill.
Additional tests are recommended if the well water has taste, odor or staining issues or if residents want to know if their drinking water contains unsafe levels of heavy metals.
“The Oswego County Health Department offers several programs for individual homeowners to have their well water tested,” said Natalie Roy, associate public health sanitarian for the Environmental Division of the Health Department.
• “Walk-in” test is conducted for coliform bacteria and E. coli only. The homeowner collects the sample and delivers it to the health department office at 70 Bunner St., Oswego. No written results are provided. There is a $20 fee.
• Realty/Service Request is for coliform and E. coli only. County Health Department staff collects the sample and provides written results. There is a $65 fee.
• Enhanced Water Testing – Additional parameters (lead, arsenic, barium, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, sodium, hardness, nitrate, and nitrite) are offered to homeowners with concerns about their water supplies. Funding is provided under a grant from the New York State Health Department.
“Currently we have limited funding through New York State to conduct enhanced water testing for homeowners,” said Roy. “Tests are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. A waiting list will be created if we receive more requests than the grant funds can provide.”
Oswego County residents who would like more information about private wells and testing programs may call the Health Department weekdays at 349-3557.
Additional information about private well water is available online at http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/well/upload/2003_06_03_privatewells_pdfs_household_wells.pdf and www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/regulations/fact_sheets/