Testing Your Well Water Supplies

Why should I test my well water?

  • Water quality can change over time.
  • Testing your well water for bacteria 3 times every year will keep you up-to-date on the quality of your family’s drinking water.
  • To properly maintain your well, testing is your best strategy to make sure your well water is safe to drink.

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How do I test my well water to find out if it is safe?

  1. Get a water bottle and submission slip from Halton Region Health Department.
  2. Remove the strainer screen from your household tap. Run the cold water through the tap for 3 - 5 minutes.
  3. Fill the bottle up to the indicator line directly from a household tap without rinsing the bottle or bottle cap. Be sure not to contaminate the bottle cap or spout while taking the sample.
  4. Fill out the submission slip. Provide your full address, including your postal code and telephone number, and other details required on the form.
  5. Return the water sample and submission form to your nearest Health Department water depot . The Health Department will send the water sample by courier to the Ministry of Health Laboratory where the sample is tested for total coliform and E. coli bacteria. Halton is not responsible for lost results.
  6. Water samples must be dropped off within 24 hours of being collected. The sample should be refrigerated unless it is dropped off immediately.
  7. There are three ways you can get the results of your well water test:
    1. The results will be mailed to you from the lab, 7 - 10 working days from the day the sample was submitted. An explanation of your results will be provided on the reverse side of the submission form.
    2. You can call the Ministry of Health Laboratory at 905-385-5379 for your test results after 3 - 5 business days from the day the sample was submitted. To call, you will need your PIN number. The PIN number is located on the side of the water sample bottle.
    3. You can pick up your results at the Ministry of Health Laboratory, 250 Fennell Avenue West, Hamilton (external link).

Other Tests - The Health Department will test water for nitrates free of charge. Please contact the Health Department to arrange for a nitrate test.

Although the Health Department does not offer testing for substances other than bacteria or nitrates, public health inspectors are available to advise you about other tests that may be done in relation to a specific health issue.

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Where are the Health Department's water depot locations?

  • Acton
    • Acton Library
      17 River St. view map (external link)
      Operating hours:
      • Tue-Thu: 9:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
    • Acton Home Hardware - Sample water bottle pick-up only
      362 Queen St. E. view map (external link)
      Operating hours:
      • Mon- Fri: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. 
      • Sat: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
      • Sun: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. 
  • Brookville
  • Burlington
    • Conservation Halton Office 
      2596 Britannia Road, Lowville view map (external link)
      Operating hours:
      • Mon-Thu: 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Campbellville
  • Georgetown
    • Georgetown Library
      9 Church St., Georgetown view map (external link)
      Operating hours:
      • Tue - Thu: 9:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
    • Halton Hills Civic Centre
      1 Halton Hills Drive view map (external link)
      Operating hours:
      • Mon-Thu: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
    • Canadian Tire - Sample water bottle pick-up only
      315 Guelph St. view map (external link)
      Operating hours:
      • Mon- Fri: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
      • Sat: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
      • Sun: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Oakville
  • Milton

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    How can I get my well water sample results?

    There are 3 ways you can get the results of your well water test:

    1. The results will be mailed to you from the lab, 7 - 10 working days from the day the sample was submitted. An explanation of your results will be provided on the reverse side of the submission form.
    2. You can call for your test results after 3 - 5 business days from the day the sample was submitted. To call, you will need your pin number. The PIN number is located on the side of the water sample bottle.
    3. You can pick-up your result at the Ministry of Health Laboratory, 250 Fennell Avenue, Hamilton, telephone 905-385-5379.

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    How do I interpret the test results?

    • Drinking water is tested for the presence of 2 groups of bacteria: total coliform bacteria and E.Coli.
    • Total coliforms exist in animal waste, soil and vegetation. The presence of these bacteria in your well may suggest that surface water is seeping into your well.
    • E.Coli bacteria are in human and animal digestive systems. Their presence in your well suggests your water may be contaminated by manure or sewage from a local septic system or feedlot. E.Coli can be dangerous to your health.

    This scale does not apply to testing of surface water used for swimming

    Organisms Ontario Drinking Water Standards Interpretation Reason
    Total Coliform per 100ml

    E. Coli per 100ml
    5 or less


    0
    No significant evidence of bacterial contamination

    No significant evidence of bacterial contamination.
     
    3 samples, taken 1 - 3 weeks apart, are needed to determine the stability of the water supply.
    Total Coliform per 100ml

    E. Coli per 100ml
    > 5


    0
     
    Significant evidence of bacterial contamination. May be unsafe to drink. For information immediately, contact Halton Region's Health Department at:
    • 905-825-6000
    • toll free 1-866-4HALTON (1-866-442-5866)
    E. Coli per 100ml > 0 Unsafe to drink - animal or human waste contamination.
     
    Unsafe to drink. Evidence of animal or human waste contamination. Contact Halton Region Health Department for information immediately.

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    What should I do if my well water does not meet the recommended guidelines?

    • Disinfect the well (PDF file) using unscented household bleach.
    • Find and eliminate the source of contamination.
    • If the source of contamination cannot be found and eliminated, the water should receive continuous disinfection.
    • If the shock treatment solves the problem, repeat bacteriological testing in 3 - 4 months.
    • If the above steps do not fix the problem, it is recommended that the source of the ongoing contamination be determined and corrected, possibly with professional help.
    • If the problem cannot be fixed, a permanent alternative solution, such as a new well or a drinking water disinfection device, should be considered.

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