This post was submitted by Dorthea Grégoire and Alan Wiebe of the Seine-Rat River Conservation District
The importance of regular well water testing
The RM of Piney is home to some of the highest quality groundwater in Canada. Some companies have made it their business to bottle and sell this award-winning water. Although the quality of groundwater in southeast Manitoba is excellent, private well water can be the source of health problems if your well is not maintained properly.
Most residents in the southeast rely on private wells for their water. The best way to monitor the health of your well is to regularly test your water for bacteria. Some kinds of bacteria can cause gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and poor digestion. These ailments can be harmful for young children; the elderly; people with compromised immune systems; or those undergoing intensive medical treatments, like chemotherapy, radiation, or organ transplant. Exposure to these bacteria can also weaken the immune systems of healthy people, and make them more susceptible to other illnesses, like the common cold or flu.
The Province of Manitoba recommends that you test your water every spring after the snow melt, or after any flooding events. Testing for E. coli and total coliform bacteria is important during this time because surface water runoff and flooding can carry contaminants directly into your well.
The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) can help you get your well water tested throughout the spring and summer months. Our staff will pick up your private well water samples from your local RM office and deliver them to the lab in Winnipeg on your behalf. We will be advertising the dates and rates of our well water testing days this spring.
The importance of well maintenance
Private well owners are responsible for the quality of their water and health of their well. While water testing can tell you what is in your water, regular well maintenance can help prevent bacteria from colonizing the inside of your well and water distribution system. Here are a few guidelines you can follow to maintain the health of your well:
1) Seal the lid:
Make sure the well is securely sealed with a cap or lid to prevent debris from entering your well. Cracked, poorly fitted, or rotting lids should be replaced as soon as possible.
2) Be aware of wooden construction materials:
Bacteria love to live in decaying or moss covered wood. Wooden lids should be replaced with metal or concrete lids. If wood is the only construction material available to you, make sure it is dry, clean, and showing no sign of rot.
Railway ties were once a popular material used to construct shallow wells. They are often used as flower bed edging around or near wells. The problem with railway ties is that they are treated with creosote to preserve the wood. This harmful chemical can leech into the water supply and cause serious health problems. Railway ties should be removed from the area surrounding your well to prevent soil and water contamination.
3) Inspect the inside of your well:
The well casing refers to a small diameter metal or plastic pipe that is fitted inside the wellbore that is drilled into the ground. Large diameter wells are usually fitted with a plastic, steel, concrete, wood, or fiberglass cribbing.
Tree roots can compromise the integrity of wells by puncturing or cracking the well casing or cribbing. The well cribbing is also subject to decay and damage from frost heave. Watch out for rusty metal, crumbling concrete, and misaligned seams. Replace damaged sections of the well cribbing to prevent contaminants from entering the well.
The well head should also stick up at least one (1) foot above the ground to prevent surface water runoff from flowing into the well. The area around the well should also be graded to keep surface water from pooling around the well head. If your well is located in a pit, consider having the pit removed and the well head brought up above the ground level.
The SRRCD can fund 50% of the cost up to $1,000 to fix up your well through our well head remediation program.
4) Keep the area around your well clean:
Tree branches, leaves, and other debris can build up over and around the well. These materials provide the ideal habitat for bacteria and small wildlife. Make sure the area around your well is clean, accessible, and free of debris.
Flowerbeds should be kept away from your well to reduce the risk of fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals entering your well. To reduce the risk of fecal contamination of your well, make sure the well is away from septic fields; compost piles; manure storage areas; and animal enclosures, including those intended for household pets.
5) Seal abandoned or unused wells:
It is common practice to drill new wells near existing wells. If an older well falls into disrepair, it may contaminate the new well that is located nearby. The best course of action is to seal the old well if it is no longer in use.
The SRRCD’s abandoned well sealing program covers 100% of the cost, up to $2,000, of sealing your abandoned or unused well.
Well health at SRRCD
The SRRCD can help you improve the health of your well. We offer programs for well water testing, abandoned well sealing, and well head remediation. Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions about these programs. You can reach us in La Broquerie at 204-424-5845, or in Vita at 204-425-7877. You can also visit us online at www.srrcd.ca.