Often I will have clients who are moving from a larger urban area (usually the G.T.A.) to the countryside. We look at properties that match their criteria, and they usually admire the more rustic nature of these homes. One of the larger stumbling blocks for some of these clients is that there is no municipal water service. Getting water from a well just isn't something they are used to (nor had they really thought about), so the prospect may be a little intimidating. Like just about everything else in life, once we know the facts about something, it's usually not all that scary.
How do we know that the water is good? This is the question I get asked the most.
It's quite easy really, and once the steps have been explained, people are reassured and they feel confident to make the purchase of the country-side home of their dreams.
Without going into the details about the different types of wells (that is for another post) and the more technical aspects of well water management, I will explain how one verifies the potability of the water in the well.
The Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit provides free water sample kits. the closest one to my office is located at 499 Dundas Street West in Trenton, but there are five other offices throughout the two counties. This kit will consist of a small bottle, a plastic bag, a little bit of paperwork, and an elastic band to keep it all together. They are normally found in a bin by the door, and you don't even have to ask anyone if you can take one, they are just there. Isn't municipal government accountability for taxpayer's money just grand?
The proper steps according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care are as follows;
1. Get a proper water sample bottle from the public health laboratory or your local public health unit, or one of the designated pickup stations in your area. Only water collected directly into these bottles will be accepted.
2. Plan to sample your well water when you're sure you can deliver it to the public health unit or other designated location within 24 hours. Your water sample should not be left sitting for a long period of time as this can lead to inaccurate results.
3. Remove any aerator, screen or other attachments from your faucet. Don't take a sample from an outside faucet or the garden hose. Take a sample from an inside tap with no aerator, such as the bathtub.
4. Disinfect the end of the faucet spout with an alcohol swab or dilute bleach solution (1 part household bleach to 10 parts water) before running water to remove debris or bacteria. Disinfecting the tap with a flame is not recommended because this can damage the faucet.
5. Turn on cold water and let it run for three to four minutes to remove standing water from your plumbing system.
6. Remove the sample bottle lid :
don't touch the inside of the lid
don't put the lid down
don't rinse out the bottle.
7. Fill the bottle to the level that is marked, as described in the enclosed instructions, and close the lid firmly.
8. Keep the sample cool (but not frozen) until it's returned to the drop-off location. Again, deliver the sample within 24 hours or it may not be processed. Remember that proper handling will help to make sure that your test results are accurate! Don't store samples in warm places such as your car trunk.
In other words, just fill the bottle with water from the tap, fill out the paperwork, and drive it back to the health unit pronto.
Bob's your uncle, once you have taken these steps, it usually takes 48 - 72 hours to get the results back from the lab. The tests in this area are shipped to the lab in Kingston, so it's important that you get your sample back to the local Health Unit before 3 p.m., otherwise you'll have missed the deadline and your sample may not be valid for the next day. It's also very important to pay attention to the paperwork and fill it out correctly, otherwise they will not do the test. I once wrote the proper date down, but I forgot to mark down the year. This silly oversight was enough to make me go back and have to submit another sample. fortunately I had enough time and it didn't jeopardise that particular deal.