August 02, 2002
NEWMARKET - Following the recent heavy rainfalls, The Regional Municipality of York Health Services Department reminds residents who draw their drinking water from private wells to test their drinking water supply. According to data received from the 2001/2002 Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance System, 9% of all York Region households get their drinking water from private wells. This equates to about 16,000 homes with private wells and approximately 53,000 people drinking water from these sources.
Surface water run-off after a heavy rainfall can contaminate wells that are not adequately maintained or protected. Dug wells are particularly susceptible to contamination due to their large diameters and shallow depth. Improper well construction and failure to maintain the well often results in contamination of the well supply through surface contamination. It is vital that owners of dug wells maintain their wells and test their water after heavy rainfall to ensure that surface contamination is not gaining access to the well water supply. Even deep drilled wells and aquifers can become contaminated as a result of cracks in the well casing, unsecured wellheads or deep cracks in the earth.
The bacteriological quality of your water is determined by looking for the presence of bacteria that are indicators of faecal (sewage) contamination — total coliforms and Escherichia coli. Total coliforms occur naturally in soil and in the gut of humans and animals. Thus, their presence in water may indicate faecal contamination. E. coli are present only in the gut of humans and animals. Their presence indicates definite faecal (sewage) pollution. Harmful bacteria can be present in water that tastes, looks and smells acceptable.
Homeowners on private wells are responsible for testing their own water supply. Private wells should be tested for bacterial contamination three to four times per year. The best time to sample your well water is when the probability of contamination is greatest. This is likely to be in early spring just after the thaw, after an extended dry spell, following heavy rains or if the well has not been in use for long periods of time, as in the case of seasonal residences.
The bacterial stability of water cannot be determined from a single sample. It is recommended that residents submit three samples at least one week apart. Residents on municipal water supplies do not need to test their water as this is done routinely by the municipalities.
York Region Health Services promotes routine well water testing of private wells by providing Private Drinking Water Test Kits and arranging for water sample analysis through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care – Laboratory Services. The water test kits are available at various York Region locations:
Georgina: Georgina Civic Centre, 26557 Civic Centre Road, Keswick,
Markham: 4261 Highway No. 7 East, Suite B6-9, Unionville,
Richmond Hill: 50 High Tech Road, 2nd Floor, Richmond Hill
Newmarket: The Tannery, 465 Davis Drive, Suite 240, Newmarket
Samples must be dropped off by noon on Tuesdays or Thursdays, for transport to the Laboratory for analysis. Water quality results are then forward to the resident through the mail by the provincial laboratory.
Residents are asked to ensure that water quality results are acceptable before using the water supply. If unsure of the bacteriological quality of water, boil water used for drinking, washing fruits and vegetables, brushing teeth or any activity involving young children swallowing water. The Health Services Department recommends that water should be brought to a rapid boil, and boiled for one minute. Water should continue to be boiled until three test results indicate no evidence of bacterial contamination.
If you have experienced gastrointestinal illness and suspect that it might be associated with your well water, consult your physician. For further information on drinking water, well water quality or the Private Drinking Water Test Kits please contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 and ask to speak to a Public Health Inspector.
The Regional Municipality of York is committed to providing cost-effective, quality services that respond to the needs of our rapidly growing communities. York Region is comprised of the following nine area municipalities: Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan and
Whitchurch-Stouffville. For more information, visit our website at: www.region.york.on.ca.
For additional information about this media release contact:
York Region Health Services
905-830-4444 Ext. 4101
Contact: Patrick Casey, Senior Media Relations Specialist, York Region