Health officials recommend testing private well water for contaminates

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 5:52 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - This week is national groundwater awareness week, so the Eau Claire City-County Health Department is reminding homeowners to get their private well water tested.

Eau Claire county has more than 9,000 private drinking wells. Tristin Faust, a microbiologist, said all of these wells are prone to contamination from bacteria and chemicals that can be harmful to your health.

“It’s important to test your water because that’s really the only way that you know it’s safe. You can’t tell by just looking at your water,” Faust said.

The DHS reports at least 10% of private wells in the state have high levels of nitrate.

“Consuming unsafe levels of nitrate over a long period of time, can increase the risk of some different cancers and thyroid disease,” Faust said.

The Health Department recommends getting your water tested every 15 months, but for those who rely on private wells the costs of testing can be prohibitive.

Last year Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced the Healthy H2O Act, which would provide grants to rural communities for water testing and filtration from contaminates like nitrates, lead, and PFAS.

Senator Baldwin is working to provide clean drinking water to every Wisconsinite and said in a statement to WEAU in part, “My Healthy H2O Act will cut costs and expand access to water testing and treatment for families that rely on private wells, especially in rural communities, so that when we turn on the faucet, we can be confident our drinking water is safe.”

Groundwater can be contaminated from natural sources or human activities.

“It can either occur naturally or it can also come from agriculture, from runoff, from pesticides or fertilizer use,” Faust said.

As the season starts to change from winter to spring, Faust said to keep an eye on your wells.

“This time of year, wells can be prone to flooding. And so if your well does experience flooding, you should also get your water tested,” Faust said.

Water testing is available at the Eau Claire City-County Health Department office. Free water testing is available for families who are expecting or have recently had a baby. According to Faust, depending on the test, results can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to come back.