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private well water banner

In Waterloo Region, our drinking water can come from municipal systems, small drinking water systems, and private wells.

Private wells exist all over Waterloo Region, however most private drinking water wells are found in more rural and agricultural areas of the region. Private wells are often the drinking water source to a household and sometimes supply multiple buildings (e.g. barn, house, workshop, etc.).

Table of Contents  

drilled well

Drilled Well (Source: Ministry of
Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs)


I have a private drinking water well, why should I test my water?

Owners of private drinking water wells are responsible for testing their drinking water. There is no other body or organization that tests private drinking well water to ensure its safety. Without testing your water, there is no way to know that it is safe to drink. 


What should I test my water for?Well Water poster

Public Health recommends that private well owners test for bacteria (i.e., E. coli and coliforms) as well as nitrates and fluoride.

Bacteria, nitrates, and fluoride can exist in well water at some level. However, when concentrations increase to unsafe levels, it can go unnoticed and your water can become unsafe to drink.

Click on these links for more information about these contaminants.

Fluoride Fact Sheet 

Nitrates Fact Sheet 

Water Testing - Information about bacteria


How often should I test my water?

Public Health recommends that private well water be tested for bacteria (e.g. coliform and E. coli) at least three times per year:

  • spring
  • summer
  • fall

Nitrates and fluoride should be tested once per year. Need a reminder to test your private well water? Sign up here for a free email reminder.


Where do I get bottles to take water samples?

Region of Waterloo Public Health offers sample water bottles to test for bacteria as well as nitrates and fluoride.

Bottles for sampling can be picked up from any of the locations listed on the schedule below, or any Regional rural library. Check here for a list of Regional library locations and hours.


Where do I drop off my water sample for testing?

See the poster below for the locations and hours of service for dropping off private well water samples.

For details about the drop-off locations, see section below.

IMPORTANT: Bottles have to be dropped off within 24 hours of taking the sample.

bottle drop-off schedule

Rural Drop-off Locations

Location and Website Address Phone Number Tuesday Office Hours

Township of North Dumfries Municipal Office

www.northdumfries.ca

North Dumfries Community Complex

2958 Greenfield Road

Ayr ON  N0B 1E0

519-632-8800 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Township of Wellesley Municipal Office

www.wellesley.ca 

4639 Lobsinger Line

St. Clements ON N0B 2M0
519-699-4611  8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. 

Township of Wilmot Municipal Office / Castle Kilbride

www.wilmot.ca 
60 Snyder's Road West

Baden ON N3A 1A1 
 519-634-8444 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Township of Woolwich Municipal Office

www.woolwich.ca 
24 Church Street West

Elmira ON N3B 2Z6 
519-669-1647  9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 

Woolwich Community Health Centre

www.wchc.on.ca 
10 Parkside Drive

St. Jacobs ON N0B 2N0 
519-664-3794  9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. 

Linwood Veterinary Services

www.linwoodvet.ca 
3860 Manser Road

Linwood ON N0B 2A0 
519-698-2610  7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 

Urban Drop-off Locations

Location and Website Address Phone Number Tuesday Office Hours

Region of Waterloo Public Health

www.regionofwaterloo.ca/ph

99 Regina Street South, Main Floor

Waterloo ON N2J 4V3

519-575-4400

Monday to Thursday*

8:30am - 4:30pm

Region of Waterloo Public Health

http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca

150 Main Street, Main Floor

Cambridge ON N1R 6R1

519-575-4400

Monday to Thursday*

8:30am - 4:30pm

*Courier picks up samples at approximately 9 a.m. Samples received after this time may not be picked up until the following business day.

How much do tests cost?

Testing for bacteria is FREE!* so pick up a bottle, take a sample, and drop it off! It's easy!

  • Testing for nitrates costs $15.50**
  • Testing for fluoride costs $15.50**

*Bacteriological testing in Ontario is funded by Public Health Ontario.

**The costs associated with nitrate and fluoride tests are collected for cost-recovery only - this is a non-profit system provided by Region of Waterloo Public Health.


What steps do I take to test my well water?

Testing for Bacteria is FREEbottle for bacteria testing

  1. Pick up an empty water sample bottle form any participating pick-up locations listed above.
  2. Take a drinking water sample from your well using the instructions on the Public Health Ontario Bacteriological Analysis of Drinking Water Submission Form.
  3. Fill out the Public Health Ontario Bacteriological Analysis of Drinking Water Submission Form completely (water samples will not be tested if form is incomplete).
  4. Drop off your bottle(s) within 24 hours of taking the sample; see the list of drop-off locations section for locations and hours of operation.

Indicate on the form how you want to see your results: in person (London, Ontario), by phone, or by mail.

Results are usually available from the Ontario Ministry of Health Public Health Laboratory within 48 hours of dropping off.

If you have a bad sample result, do not drink your well water. Contact Public Health and follow Public Health Ontario's recommendations to disinfecting your well: Well Disinfection Tool

Testing for Nitrates or Fluoride - $15.50 for each test

  1. Pick up an empty water sample bottle form any participating pick-up fluoride and nitrate testing bottlelocations listed above; both nitrate and fluoride tests can be completed in the same drinking water sample bottle.
  2. Take a drinking water sample from your well using the instructions on the Region of Waterloo Nitrate/Fluoride Drinking Water Submission Form.
  3. Fill out the Region of Waterloo Nitrate/Fluoride Drinking Water Submission Form completely (water samples will not be tested if form is incomplete).
  4. Drop off your water sample and completed form within 24 hours of taking the sample at any drop-off locations, only on the last Tuesday of the month.

Your test results will be mailed to you by Region of Waterloo Public Health.

Results are usually available from Region of Waterloo Public Health within one week of dropping off your water sample.

A Public Health Inspector will contact you by telephone if there are any concerns related to your sample.

If you have a bad sample result:

  • Do not drink your well water. DO NOT BOIL YOUR WATER! Boiling your well water will concentrate these compounds.
  • Consider using bottled water or a municipal supply if available.
  • Contact a licensed water treatment professional for treatment and maintenance advice. 

What if I have a question regarding private well water sampling or my test results?

Region of Waterloo Public Health staff are happy to help answer any questions you have about private well water sampling or your test results. Call 519-575-4400 to speak to a Public Health Inspector.


I had my water tested for bacteria - how do I read my sample test results?

Results Total Coliforms E.coli What it means What do do
No
significant evidence of bacterial contamination
5 or less  0 No significant bacterial contamination was found   Continue to test your drinking water on a regular basis to see if there are any changes in your drinking water quality 
Significant
evidence of bacterial contamination
More than 5 0 Significant bacterial contamination was found  
  • Stop using your well water
  • Contact Public Health for information as soon as possible
  • Consider using bottled water or a municipal supply if available
  • If you want to continue to use your well water, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using it for drinking, making infant formula, juices, ice or recipes, brushing your teeth, rinsing contact lenses, and washing food or dishes. Refrigerate your boiled water until it is used
Unsafe
to drink: Evidence of faecal contamination
N/A 1 or more Indicates bacterial contamination from animal or human faeces   Your drinking water is unsafe to drink
  • Stop using your well water
  • Contact Public Health for information as soon as possibleConsider using bottled water or a municipal supply if available
  • If you want to continue to use your well water, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using it for drinking, making infant formula, juices, ice or recipes, brushing your teeth, rinsing contact lenses, and washing food or dishes. Refrigerate your boiled water until it is used

NDOGN
- No Data: Overgrown with Non-target

 
N/A N/A  Heavily contaminated with bacteria often found in the environment  Your drinking water may be unsafe to drink
  • Stop using your well water
  • Contact Public Health for information as soon as possible
  • Consider using bottled water or a municipal supply if available
  • If you want to continue to use your well water, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using it for drinking, making infant formula, juices, ice or recipes, brushing your teeth, rinsing contact lenses, and washing food or dishes. Refrigerate your boiled water until it is used 
NDOGT
- No Data: Overgrown with Target 
N/A  N/A  Heavily contaminated with bacteria often found in the environment and the indicators of bacterial contamination, total coliforms and / or E.coli are present Your drinking water is unsafe to drink
  • Stop using your well water
  • Contact Public Health for information as soon as possible
  • Consider using bottled water or a municipal supply if available
  • If you want to continue to use your well water, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using it for drinking, making infant formula, juices, ice or recipes, brushing your teeth, rinsing contact lenses, and washing food or dishes. Refrigerate your boiled water until it is used

Source: Public Health Ontario, 2016

Please access the following links for more information on how to read your water sample bacteria test results from Public Health Ontario: Water Testing: Get and understand your test results and New Water Testing Report. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact Region of Waterloo Public Health and a Public Health Inspector will be happy to help you.


What if I receive a notice that I have an adverse water sample? Will I be required to replace my well?

Region of Waterloo Public Health will not require that you replace your well if your water is contaminated. If you have an adverse water sample that has unsafe levels of E. coli, total coliforms, nitrates, or fluoride, contact us and a Public Health Inspector can discuss the safety of your drinking water, the options that you have, or any other questions you may have regarding your adverse water sample.


I have a hard time remembering to test - do you have a reminder system?sign up for an email reminder

We do! If you would like to receive email reminders to test your water three times per year, sign up here.

This system also sends emails when there are service changes due to holidays or other laboratory or office closures.


I know I can test for bacteria, nitrates, and fluoride - what if I want to test for other metals or chemicals?

To test your drinking water for other metals or chemicals, please contact a private laboratory. Consult your phone book's yellow pages or check this list of licensed laboratories.


Fact Sheets, Forms, Links

Fluoride Fact Sheet - Region of Waterloo Public Health

Nitrates Fact Sheet - Region of Waterloo Public Health

Bottle Drop-off Schedule - Region of Waterloo Public Health

Bacteria Water Sample Submission Form and Instructions - Public Health Ontario

Nitrate / Fluoride Water Sample Submission Form and Instructions - Region of Waterloo Public Health

Drinking Water - Health Canada - provides resources and information on requirements for keeping drinking water safe

Wells on your property - Ministry of Environment and Climate Change - provides resources and information on our province's drinking water

WellAware.ca - provides resources and information for private home well owners

A Guide to Caring for Your Well and Protecting Your Family's Health - a comprehensive booklet for well owners provided by WellAware.ca

Water Testing - Public Health Ontario - information about water testing in Ontario

Water Testing: Get and understand your test results - Public Health Ontario

What's in your Well? - Health Canada - a guide to well water treatment and maintenance

List of Licensed Laboratories - provides a list of laboratories that are licensed to test drinking water in Ontario

Well Disinfection Tool - Public Health Ontario

Well Records - Ministry of Environment - provides information on how to complete, submit or get a copy of a well record

Best Management Practices: Water Wells - Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs - explains well components, maintenance, new well construction requirements, and procedures for unused wells

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