OSWEGO — The Oswego County Health Department announced that it will resume private well testing for residents this spring.
“We had to pause the program last year due to COVID-19 safety issues,” said Judy Grandy, director of environmental health at the Oswego County Health Department. “Now, we are once again able to offer several options for individual homeowners to have their well water tested under the Residential Well Assistance Program.
“Walk-in” tests are conducted for coliform bacteria and E. coli only. The homeowner must contact the health department to obtain the proper sample kit. No written results are provided. There is a $30 fee.
Realty service tests also look for coliform and E. coli only. Oswego County Health Department staff collects the sample and provides written results. The fee is $75.
Enhanced water testing checks for lead, arsenic, barium, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, sodium, hardness, nitrate and nitrite. Funding for enhanced water testing is provided under a grant from the New York State Department of Health.
“Currently, we have limited funding through New York state to conduct the enhanced water testing for homeowners,” said Grandy. “Tests are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. A waiting list will be created if we receive more requests than grant funds will cover.”
The Oswego County Health Department, state Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency all recommend testing private wells for coliform bacteria once a year. The EPA also recommends testing for nitrate annually. Infants less than six months of age who drink water containing nitrate could become seriously ill.
Additional tests are recommended if the well water has taste, odor or staining issues. These may indicate the drinking water contains elevated levels of certain heavy metals.
“Contaminated water can be a threat to your health,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “The only way to tell if your drinking water is safe is by having it tested at a certified laboratory. Harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses are invisible to the naked eye, so water which looks and tastes good may not necessarily be safe to drink.”
He advised residents to protect the area around their wells. “If your drinking water comes from a household well, you are responsible for assuring that it is safe,” he said. “Improper disposal of household chemicals or waste, or improper use of lawn care chemicals can cause serious problems. Take steps to protect your well from domestic animal waste. Reduce erosion and divert surface water run-off away from your well as much as possible.”
Residents who suspect their water supply is contaminated or who would like more information about private wells and testing programs can call the Oswego County Health Department’s Environmental Division weekdays at 315-349-3557. Go to https://www.epa.gov/privatewells for additional information about private well water. Other online resources for testing, treating and protecting private wells or drilling a new well is available at www.wellowner.org and www.nywelldriller.org.