Time for drinking water to be tested

Spring is usually the time when rivers and streams rise and floodwaters cover fields, roads and yards.

Because of this, it’s also the time to have water wells checked.

“If your yard is covered with water and the well is surrounded or covered, then it’s recommended to have it tested for bacteria before you drink it,” said Paul Ramsey, environmental health director with Jackson County Health Department.

Ramsey said when the water table rises, it can cause issues, possibly resulting in a strange odor or change in taste of water.

In Indiana, 3 million Hoosiers rely on groundwater-supplied community drinking water systems, while another 1 million rely on private, individual water wells. That’s 60 percent of the state’s population, according to the Jackson County Health Department.

Groundwater is the water that soaks into the soil from rain or snow and moves downward to fill cracks and openings in beds of rock and sand. It is an abundant natural resource.

When to test

Health officials say water well sampling tests should be conducted:

Annually

If a new well or reactivating well has been out of service for more than six months

Whenever there is a change in taste, odor or appearance of water

After flooding

After a repair or damage such as a broken cap

In the event of any family members having recurring gastrointestinal illnesses

“We recommend it to be tested any time that you disturb the well or plumbing because it could allow bacteria or backwash in,” Ramsey said. “It’s good to check it after any type of repair, replacement or fix.”

He also said if you have a dug well, which is a larger diameter well, it’s recommended to have it tested annually.

“They have a tendency over the years for the casing to crack, and it allows untreated water to get into the well,” he said.

What to look for

Residents should test for:

Bacteria (total/fecal coliform, present or absent)

Nitrates

Anything of local concern; for example, arsenic and radon

Constituents that cause problems with plumbing, staining, water appearance and odor; for example, iron, manganese, water hardness and sulfides

To protect groundwater from contamination sources in and around a drinking water wellhead, in addition to following setbacks outlined in state and local onsite sewage system regulations, it is recommended to:

Keep hazardous chemicals, such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides and motor oil, far away from the well

Maintain a “clean” zone of at least 50 feet between the well and any kennels

Periodically check the well cover or well cap on top of the well casing to ensure it is in good repair

Keep your well records in a safe place

County services

Jackson County Health Department provides services to test residents’ water sources by providing a self-test.

Residents may go to the health department, 801 W. Second St., between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m to pick up a self-test and instructions. It takes 24 hours and costs $15. There also is a $15 charge for retesting in the event a negative result requires testing and retesting.

If the environmental division comes out to conduct a test, it is $30. Results often are available within 24 hours.

Ramsey said if anyone wants to check for specific chemicals, such as nitrates, those need to be done by a certified laboratory. He said to call and he can connect them with one close to the area.

At a glance

Questions may be directed to Environmental Health Director Paul Ramsey or Environmental Specialist Larry Miller at 812-522-6474.