HEALTH MATTERS: Test your well water every year

Contributing writerOctober 2, 2013 

If you have your own well, you are responsible for testing the water quality.


Clear, clean water – there is nothing better to drink when you’re thirsty.

Water from city and other water systems is regularly tested and if problems arise, users are notified. But for those of us who have our own wells, we are responsible for the safety of our own drinking water.

There is no requirement for testing, but it is a good idea to test your drinking water regularly. The health department recommends testing for bacteria once a year and for nitrate at least every three years, especially before bringing home an infant, or when a woman living in the home is pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant. To test your well water, pick up sample bottles at the County Courthouse Building 1, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW; at the Public Health Building, 412 Lilly Road NE; at the city hall buildings in Rainier, Yelm, and Tenino; or at the Rochester ROOF Community Center. There is a $27 fee for each test.

Specific directions come with each sample bottle; you need to follow the sampling instructions exactly. It is important that your sample is not cross-contaminated by germs that may come from your hands or elsewhere. Be sure to plan ahead. The water sample must be returned the same day the water was collected and can only be accepted on certain days. You should receive test results by mail within a few days of submitting the sample. If your sample shows contamination, you will receive a phone call immediately with information on how to proceed with your specific situation.

There are additional steps you can take to help protect your drinking water:

Know where your well is located. Slope ground away from the well so rain and surface runoff water (which may contain contaminants) drains away from it.

Be sure there are no openings into your well. Double check that all vents are screened and that the well is sealed properly.

Keep hazardous products, including gas for the mower, away from the well. Do not store them in your pump house. Hazardous products include any with the words poison, danger, warning, or caution on the label.

Keep your septic system well maintained. This will not only help protect water quality, it will extend the life of your septic system and save on maintenance costs. For septic information, call the Septic Help Line at 360-867-2669.

Take unwanted household hazardous products to HazoHouse for safe, free disposal. HazoHouse is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays through Tuesdays at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center on Hogum Bay Road off I-5 Exit 111 in Lacey.

Testing and protecting our water supplies is an important part of ensuring safe drinking water for all of us. A safe water supply is part of a happy and healthy community. For more information about drinking water safety, locating an approved laboratory, or testing your private well water, visit or call 360-867-2631.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501,, or @yu4health on Twitter.

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