Florence County Health Department

Florence County, Wisconsin
info@florencewipublichealth.com  | 715-528-4837 | 501 Lake Ave, P.O. Box 410, Florence, Wisconsin 54121
Healthy People, Vibrant Communities
P.O. Box 410; Florence, WI 54121 501 Lake Ave; Florence, WI 54121 715-528-4837 info@florencewipublichealth.com Website by North Country Website Design
Home > Community Health > Wisconsin Well Woman

Water Well Testing

Private Water Testing

Now Available from the Florence County Health Department

  Water testing is an inexpensive and effective way of assuring a safe and healthy  water supply. It’s estimated that 20-25% of Wisconsin wells have bacterial contamination. Florence County Health Department advises all private well owners to have their well water tested for coliform bacteria and nitrates annually, especially if infants under six months of age or women of childbearing age are drinking the water, or sooner if changes in taste, odor or appearance are noticed, or there is an unexplained illness. The Florence County Health Department’s Water Analysis Lab is certified by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to conduct bacteriological testing of public and private (wells) drinking water. The lab also monitors the public drinking water supplies of facilities involved in Florence County’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) transient non-community water (TNC) systems program. To maintain state certification, the laboratory conducts required proficiency testing and completes quality assurance and quality control exercises on a daily basis. Florence County Health Department’s Water Analysis Lab provides convenient, reliable, and reasonably priced well water testing for both home and vacation properties. This service is available to anyone; you do not need to be a resident of Florence County. Lab tests completed on-site include coliform and E-Coli bacteria, with definitive results within 48 hours. Through a partnership with UW-Oshkosh, Florence County Health Department’s Water Analysis Lab offers additional testing options including nitrates.  Additional types of water testing can be completed by other state and public labs, information and test kits from other public labs are available at the front desk, fees may apply. Florence County Public Health Department Water Fees: Coliform Bacteria   $30.00 Nitrate-Nitrogen     $30.00 ** Other testing options available, fees vary by lab. Monday through Thursday 8:30 am – 3:30 pm *Schedule is subject to change during holidays. You may also contact one of the environmental health team members at the health department for further questions: Ann Price, B.S., R.S. - Environmental Health Specialist, annprice@co.florence.wi.us  Amber Kolberg - Emergency Preparedness Coordinator/Community Health Specialist, phep@co.florence.wi.us  Well Owner Tip Sheet Additional Information: Tests for Drinking Water for Private Wells Operators Handbook on Safe Drinking Water for Transient, Non-Community Water Systems Bacterial Contamination of Drinking Water Nitrate In Drinking Water DNR Drinking Water Systems Look UP The state requires only that you test for bacteria when drilling a new well or changing your pump, however there are many other contaminants that can be harmful to your family's health. Several contaminants are odorless and colorless and can only be detected by testing. Some tests that should be done are: bacteria, nitrates, pesticides, arsenic, lead, copper and others depending on your area. To obtain a water test kit stop in, call 715-528-4837 or email Ann Price or Amber Kolberg. For more information see DNR Ground Water.

NITRATE

What is Nitrate? Nitrate (NO3-) is a water-soluble molecule made up of nitrogen and oxygen. It is formed when nitrogen from ammonia or other sources combines with oxygenated water. Nitrate is a natural constituent of plants and is found in vegetables at varying levels depending on the amount of fertilizer applied and on other growing conditions. According to the World Health Organization, most adults ingest 20-70 milligrams of nitrate- nitrogen per day with most of this coming from foods like lettuce, celery, beets, and spinach. When foods containing nitrate are eaten as part of a balanced diet the nitrate exposure is not thought to be harmful. Nitrate Levels in Drinking Water Water naturally contains less than 1 milligram of nitrate-nitrogen per liter and is not a major source of exposure. Higher levels indicate that the water has been contaminated. Common sources of nitrate contamination include fertilizers, animal wastes, septic tanks, municipal sewage treatment systems, and decaying plant debris. The ability of nitrate to enter well water depends on the type of soil and bedrock present, and on the depth and construction of the well. State and federal laws set the maximum allowable level of nitrate-nitrogen in public drinking water at 10 milligrams per liter (10 parts per million). These laws apply to all city and village water supplies and are used as an advisory for private wells. NITRATE BROCHURE from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  

LEAD

Standards for Lead in Drinking Water Frequently asked questions about lead in drinking water, and links to the federal on the Safe Drinking Water Act can be found on the CDC website.  

ARSENIC

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in soil and bedrock formation. Traces of arsenic are also found in groundwater, lakes, rivers and ocean water. Foods like fruits, vegetables and seafood can also contain arsenic. The major source of arsenic exposure is drinking water that contains elevated levels of arsenic. The new arsenic drinking water standard is 10 parts per billion (ppb). Consumption of arsenic contaminated water has been associated with the following possible health effects: skin cancer, internal cancers, thick rough skin on hands and feet, unusual skin pigmentation, numbness in hands and feet, circulatory disorders, tremors, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, diabetes and depression. In early 2016, the Health Department received grant funding to provide a limited number of free arsenic tests to Florence residents. During the project period, Florence County Health Department distributed 100 sample bottles to homeowners. Of those 100 samples given, 88 were returned and tested. Arsenic in water is measured in micrograms per liter (µg/L). Arsenic levels under 10 µg/L are safe for drinking and cooking. In their sample, the average level of arsenic was 7.83 µg/L, and the median level was 2.16 µg/L. The health department created a fact sheet to outline the results Arsenic has been detected in every county in the state of Wisconsin. You cannot smell, taste or see arsenic in your drinking water. The only way to know if your water contains arsenic is to have a water sample from your private well tested by a certified laboratory. A list of certified labs is available from the DNR online at: Lab List. Use this guide to interpret the results of your test and for suggestions and contacts to help fix the problem if you water test shows high arsenic content.

Finding a Contractor

A qualified water well system professional will be licensed or certified, and have the knowledge, skills, and equipment to meet your well's needs. http://wellowner.org/ 

So, what are some signs your well might need some attention?

The well water is turbid, which means it is cloudy or has suspended matter in it. There has been a decrease in the well’s capacity — that is, the gallons of water per minute that the pump can supply to the system has diminished. The water has developed an odor or taste problem. The water tests positive for total coliform and/or overall biological activity.

How is my well system cleaned?

Some well owners view chlorination as a cure-all for water quality problems. While chlorination might temporarily prevent taste and odor problems, it leaves behind debris or accumulated organic material. Such debris or material provides a food source for future bacterial growth. Chlorination may therefore be ineffective in the long run. There are two basic approaches to well cleaning — mechanical and chemical, with the most effective strategy often being a combination of the two. Within both the chemical and mechanical methods is an array of options. A water well system contractor is best qualified to help the well owner decide which methods to use, depending on the condition of the well.   Mechanical processes for loosening debris and/or encrustations and removing them from the well include: Pressurized air or water Wire brushes or scrapers Agitation of water in the well Sonic waves Chemical cleaning often involves the use of various acids to loosen or dissolve debris so that it can be pumped out of the well. Depending on the nature of the cleaning job, there are also polymers and “caustic” chemicals (that increase the alkalinity of the water) to remove debris. The age of a well may determine which methods are used to clean it. If a well’s water intake areas or the well casing have corroded significantly over time, they may be damaged or destroyed by more aggressive cleaning practices. In such cases, a well owner may opt to proceed directly to new well construction or prepare for that option if cleaning is ineffective. *Note: Well cleaning should be followed immediately by a thorough disinfection of the well system and its immediate environment. Disinfection of the well should be completed by the water well contractor to ensure that it is done properly.

How much can I expect to spend?

The costs of cleaning and maintaining your well can widely vary depending on location, the age of your well, and your specific needs. For example, an inspection of your well could run between $300 and $500. If a professional determines your well needs cleaning, that could run anywhere from $200-$800.   As always, proper well maintenance is the key to extended pump and water treatment system life, and reduced impacts on plumbing fixtures and appliances. NGWA encourages well owners to periodically get a water well system checkup that considers, among other things, whether the well system needs cleaning.  

Where can I learn more?

Residential well cleaning on WellOwner.org. If you have any suggestions on additional topics you’d like to see us cover, please feel free to respond to this email or send a note directly to amartin@ngwa.org anytime.

Test

Test — NGWA recommends well owners test their water annually for bacteria, nitrates, and other contaminants. A great local resource for testing is your health or environmental health department as each will recommend the type and frequency of testing specific to your location.

Tend

Tend — Routine maintenance and inspection of water wells can help protect water quality, ensure your well is operating properly, prolong the useful life of the well system, and protect your investment. More importantly, regular maintenance can also protect your health. At a minimum, your well should be evaluated annually by a licensed or certified water well systems professional. For more information on what this annual test should include, how to find a professional, and how to monitor your well’s performance, please visit our maintenance page.

Treat

Treat — Water quality problems can be divided into two broad categories:(1) those that present aesthetic concerns, such as undesirable tastes, odors, or appearance. (2) those that present a health risk. When treating the cause of water quality problems is not possible, water treatment is a great option. To find out more about common treatments and related issues, including detailed FAQs, please visit our water treatment page.  

Looking for a video to sum this all up?

Here you go! NGWA Test, Tend, and Treat.

Water Well Maintenance 101

A popular TV commercial in the 1970s featured a mechanic who held up a clogged oil filter and said, sternly, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” The implication was clear: Buying a replacement filter is a cost, but it’s a lot less costly than engine failure caused by poor maintenance. Similarly, neglecting water well maintenance can have disastrous results, including a catastrophic system failure and susceptibility to outside contamination that fouls the water or presents a health risk. It pays to be wise about well maintenance. Following are some key questions and answers:  

Who’s qualified to perform water well maintenance?

 It’s best to use a water well system professional licensed or registered to conduct well maintenance. Some of these professionals also are members of or certified by the National Ground Water Association. You can find lists of professionals here. Well owners shouldn’t attempt to perform such maintenance. Those who do risk damaging the well system or injuring themselves. Neither are professional plumbers geared toward water well work and likely lack the skills, knowledge, experience, and equipment to diagnose and fix water well system problems.

What does basic water well maintenance involve?

 For the well owner, it begins with observing portions of well system that are visible, such as: The well casing that protrudes from the ground The well cap on top of the casing The electrical conduit connection Hazardous household substances near the well Pooling water around the well Plant growth encroaching on the well Physical hazards that could damage the well (i.e., tractor mowers, vehicles)If you see evidence of well system deterioration or a hazard, consult a water well professional about next steps. Also consult a water well professional if there is a noticeable change in water quality, a water test indicates a problem, water pressure drops or fluctuates, the flow of water into the well decreases, and the well needs disinfection.  

When should well maintenance be performed?

Well maintenance may be indicated if there is a noticeable problem with water quality or the performance of the well system, and if there is visible deterioration of the well system. Beyond that, an annual well inspection is wise to make sure any maintenance problems are detected early. Where can I find a well maintenance schedule and someone to maintain my well system? Well systems don’t have maintenance schedules such as those that come with cars. Well systems consist of parts made by different manufacturers, so individual well system components may have their own maintenance recommendations and warranties. The best way to stay on top of well maintenance is to get an annual well system inspection. Click here to find a water well professional who can conduct a well inspection. Also, a Well Owner’s Manual developed by the National Ground Water Association allows you to set automatic email reminders to get your well inspected or check specific maintenance issues.  

Why can’t I shock chlorinate my well as part of my regular well maintenance?

First, shock chlorination is a well disinfection procedure best done by a water well system professional because of the many precise steps involved. Proper shock chlorination is effective against microorganisms but does not address other water quality issues. Furthermore, if there is a breach in the well system allowing bacteria in, disinfection will not be effective and the breach must be fixed.

Florence County

Health Department

info@florencewipublichealth.com  | 715-528-4837 | 501 Lake Ave, P.O. Box 410, Florence, WI 54121
Healthy People, Vibrant Communities
501 Lake Ave Florence, WI 54121 715-528-4837 info@florencewipublichealth.com Website by North Country Website Design
Home > Community Health > Wisconsin Well Woman

Water Well Testing

Private Water Testing

Now Available from the Florence County Health Department

  Water testing is an inexpensive and effective way of assuring a safe and healthy water supply. It’s estimated that 20-25% of Wisconsin wells have bacterial contamination. Florence County Health Department advises all private well owners to have their well water tested for coliform bacteria and nitrates annually, especially if infants under six months of age or women of childbearing age are drinking the water, or sooner if changes in taste, odor or appearance are noticed, or there is an unexplained illness. The Florence County Health Department’s Water Analysis Lab is certified by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to conduct bacteriological testing of public and private (wells) drinking water. The lab also monitors the public drinking water supplies of facilities involved in Florence County’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) transient non-community water (TNC) systems program. To maintain state certification, the laboratory conducts required proficiency testing and completes quality assurance and quality control exercises on a daily basis. Florence County Health Department’s Water Analysis Lab provides convenient, reliable, and reasonably priced well water testing for both home and vacation properties. This service is available to anyone; you do not need to be a resident of Florence County. Lab tests completed on-site include coliform and E-Coli bacteria, with definitive results within 48 hours. Through a partnership with UW-Oshkosh, Florence County Health Department’s Water Analysis Lab offers additional testing options including nitrates.  Additional types of water testing can be completed by other state and public labs, information and test kits from other public labs are available at the front desk, fees may apply. Florence County Public Health Department Water Fees: Coliform Bacteria   $30.00 Nitrate-Nitrogen     $30.00 ** Other testing options available, fees vary by lab. Monday through Thursday 8:30 am – 3:30 pm *Schedule is subject to change during holidays. You may also contact one of the environmental health team members at the health department for further questions: Ann Price, B.S., R.S. - Environmental Health Specialist, annprice@co.florence.wi.us  Amber Kolberg - Emergency Preparedness Coordinator/Community Health Specialist, phep@co.florence.wi.us  Well Owner Tip Sheet Additional Information: Tests for Drinking Water for Private Wells Operators Handbook on Safe Drinking Water for Transient, Non-Community Water Systems Bacterial Contamination of Drinking Water Nitrate In Drinking Water DNR Drinking Water Systems Look UP The state requires only that you test for bacteria when drilling a new well or changing your pump, however there are many other contaminants that can be harmful to your family's health. Several contaminants are odorless and colorless and can only be detected by testing. Some tests that should be done are: bacteria, nitrates, pesticides, arsenic, lead, copper and others depending on your area. To obtain a water test kit stop in, call 715-528-4837 or email Ann Price or Amber Kolberg. For more information see DNR Ground Water.

NITRATE

What is Nitrate? Nitrate (NO3-) is a water-soluble molecule made up of nitrogen and oxygen. It is formed when nitrogen from ammonia or other sources combines with oxygenated water. Nitrate is a natural constituent of plants and is found in vegetables at varying levels depending on the amount of fertilizer applied and on other growing conditions. According to the World Health Organization, most adults ingest 20-70 milligrams of nitrate- nitrogen per day with most of this coming from foods like lettuce, celery, beets, and spinach. When foods containing nitrate are eaten as part of a balanced diet the nitrate exposure is not thought to be harmful. Nitrate Levels in Drinking Water Water naturally contains less than 1 milligram of nitrate- nitrogen per liter and is not a major source of exposure. Higher levels indicate that the water has been contaminated. Common sources of nitrate contamination include fertilizers, animal wastes, septic tanks, municipal sewage treatment systems, and decaying plant debris. The ability of nitrate to enter well water depends on the type of soil and bedrock present, and on the depth and construction of the well. State and federal laws set the maximum allowable level of nitrate-nitrogen in public drinking water at 10 milligrams per liter (10 parts per million). These laws apply to all city and village water supplies and are used as an advisory for private wells. NITRATE BROCHURE from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  

LEAD

Standards for Lead in Drinking Water Frequently asked questions about lead in drinking water, and links to the federal on the Safe Drinking Water Act can be found on the CDC website.  

ARSENIC

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in soil and bedrock formation. Traces of arsenic are also found in groundwater, lakes, rivers and ocean water. Foods like fruits, vegetables and seafood can also contain arsenic. The major source of arsenic exposure is drinking water that contains elevated levels of arsenic. The new arsenic drinking water standard is 10 parts per billion (ppb). Consumption of arsenic contaminated water has been associated with the following possible health effects: skin cancer, internal cancers, thick rough skin on hands and feet, unusual skin pigmentation, numbness in hands and feet, circulatory disorders, tremors, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, diabetes and depression. In early 2016, the Health Department received grant funding to provide a limited number of free arsenic tests to Florence residents. During the project period, Florence County Health Department distributed 100 sample bottles to homeowners. Of those 100 samples given, 88 were returned and tested. Arsenic in water is measured in micrograms per liter (µg/L). Arsenic levels under 10 µg/L are safe for drinking and cooking. In their sample, the average level of arsenic was 7.83 µg/L, and the median level was 2.16 µg/L. The health department created a fact sheet to outline the results Arsenic has been detected in every county in the state of Wisconsin. You cannot smell, taste or see arsenic in your drinking water. The only way to know if your water contains arsenic is to have a water sample from your private well tested by a certified laboratory. A list of certified labs is available from the DNR online at: Lab List. Use this guide to interpret the results of your test and for suggestions and contacts to help fix the problem if you water test shows high arsenic content.

Finding a Contractor

A qualified water well system professional will be licensed or certified, and have the knowledge, skills, and equipment to meet your well's needs. http://wellowner.org/ 

So, what are some signs your well

might need some attention?

The well water is turbid, which means it is cloudy or has suspended matter in it. There has been a decrease in the well’s capacity — that is, the gallons of water per minute that the pump can supply to the system has diminished. The water has developed an odor or taste problem. The water tests positive for total coliform and/or overall biological activity.

How is my well system cleaned?

Some well owners view chlorination as a cure-all for water quality problems. While chlorination might temporarily prevent taste and odor problems, it leaves behind debris or accumulated organic material. Such debris or material provides a food source for future bacterial growth. Chlorination may therefore be ineffective in the long run. There are two basic approaches to well cleaning — mechanical and chemical, with the most effective strategy often being a combination of the two. Within both the chemical and mechanical methods is an array of options. A water well system contractor is best qualified to help the well owner decide which methods to use, depending on the condition of the well.   Mechanical processes for loosening debris and/or encrustations and removing them from the well include: Pressurized air or water Wire brushes or scrapers Agitation of water in the well Sonic waves Chemical cleaning often involves the use of various acids to loosen or dissolve debris so that it can be pumped out of the well. Depending on the nature of the cleaning job, there are also polymers and “caustic” chemicals (that increase the alkalinity of the water) to remove debris. The age of a well may determine which methods are used to clean it. If a well’s water intake areas or the well casing have corroded significantly over time, they may be damaged or destroyed by more aggressive cleaning practices. In such cases, a well owner may opt to proceed directly to new well construction or prepare for that option if cleaning is ineffective. *Note: Well cleaning should be followed immediately by a thorough disinfection of the well system and its immediate environment. Disinfection of the well should be completed by the water well contractor to ensure that it is done properly.

How much can I expect to spend?

The costs of cleaning and maintaining your well can widely vary depending on location, the age of your well, and your specific needs. For example, an inspection of your well could run between $300 and $500. If a professional determines your well needs cleaning, that could run anywhere from $200-$800.   As always, proper well maintenance is the key to extended pump and water treatment system life, and reduced impacts on plumbing fixtures and appliances. NGWA encourages well owners to periodically get a water well system checkup that considers, among other things, whether the well system needs cleaning.  

Where can I learn more?

Residential well cleaning on WellOwner.org. If you have any suggestions on additional topics you’d like to see us cover, please feel free to respond to this email or send a note directly to amartin@ngwa.org anytime.

Test

Test — NGWA recommends well owners test their water annually for bacteria, nitrates, and other contaminants. A great local resource for testing is your health or environmental health department as each will recommend the type and frequency of testing specific to your location.

Tend

Tend — Routine maintenance and inspection of water wells can help protect water quality, ensure your well is operating properly, prolong the useful life of the well system, and protect your investment. More importantly, regular maintenance can also protect your health. At a minimum, your well should be evaluated annually by a licensed or certified water well systems professional. For more information on what this annual test should include, how to find a professional, and how to monitor your well’s performance, please visit our maintenance page.

Treat

Treat — Water quality problems can be divided into two broad categories:(1) those that present aesthetic concerns, such as undesirable tastes, odors, or appearance. (2) those that present a health risk. When treating the cause of water quality problems is not possible, water treatment is a great option. To find out more about common treatments and related issues, including detailed FAQs, please visit our water treatment page.  

Looking for a video to sum this all up?

Here you go! NGWA Test, Tend, and Treat.

Water Well Maintenance

101

A popular TV commercial in the 1970s featured a mechanic who held up a clogged oil filter and said, sternly, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” The implication was clear: Buying a replacement filter is a cost, but it’s a lot less costly than engine failure caused by poor maintenance. Similarly, neglecting water well maintenance can have disastrous results, including a catastrophic system failure and susceptibility to outside contamination that fouls the water or presents a health risk. It pays to be wise about well maintenance. Following are some key questions and answers:  

Who’s qualified to perform water well

maintenance?

 It’s best to use a water well system professional licensed or registered to conduct well maintenance. Some of these professionals also are members of or certified by the National Ground Water Association. You can find lists of professionals here. Well owners shouldn’t attempt to perform such maintenance. Those who do risk damaging the well system or injuring themselves. Neither are professional plumbers geared toward water well work and likely lack the skills, knowledge, experience, and equipment to diagnose and fix water well system problems.

What does basic water well

maintenance involve?

 For the well owner, it begins with observing portions of well system that are visible, such as: The well casing that protrudes from the ground The well cap on top of the casing The electrical conduit connection Hazardous household substances near the well Pooling water around the well Plant growth encroaching on the well Physical hazards that could damage the well (i.e., tractor mowers, vehicles)If you see evidence of well system deterioration or a hazard, consult a water well professional about next steps. Also consult a water well professional if there is a noticeable change in water quality, a water test indicates a problem, water pressure drops or fluctuates, the flow of water into the well decreases, and the well needs disinfection.  

When should well maintenance

be performed?

Well maintenance may be indicated if there is a noticeable problem with water quality or the performance of the well system, and if there is visible deterioration of the well system. Beyond that, an annual well inspection is wise to make sure any maintenance problems are detected early. Where can I find a well maintenance schedule and someone to maintain my well system? Well systems don’t have maintenance schedules such as those that come with cars. Well systems consist of parts made by different manufacturers, so individual well system components may have their own maintenance recommendations and warranties. The best way to stay on top of well maintenance is to get an annual well system inspection. Click here to find a water well professional who can conduct a well inspection. Also, a Well Owner’s Manual developed by the National Ground Water Association allows you to set automatic email reminders to get your well inspected or check specific maintenance issues.  

Why can’t I shock chlorinate my well as

part of my regular well maintenance?

First, shock chlorination is a well disinfection procedure best done by a water well system professional because of the many precise steps involved. Proper shock chlorination is effective against microorganisms but does not address other water quality issues. Furthermore, if there is a breach in the well system allowing bacteria in, disinfection will not be effective and the breach must be fixed.
Florence County, Wisconsin