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Environmental Health Services

Well and Water Testing Frequently Asked Questions

Wells

Water Testing

 

Wells

Do I need to get a permit to drill a well or repair my existing well?

Yes. Any newly constructed or repaired well must have a permit issued by the Health Department.  You will need to apply for a permit by filling out and submitting an application.  You must pay a permit fee for new wells, however there is no charge for a well repair or abandonment permit.

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What inspections from the Health Department are required for my well?

When a new well is constructed, we make a site visit at least 4 times.

  • Siting the well and issuing the permit
  • Inspecting the grout during the well construction
  • Inspecting the well head after the pump is installed and before the house can be occupied
  • Collecting a water sample within 30 days of putting the well into use.

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What do I need to do to maintain my well?

A properly protected well should provide many years of trouble-free service.  Modern drilled wells are generally protected from extended droughts, however you should practice water conservation in the home to benefit the well and to extend the life of your septic system.  Make sure that the well is protected from freezing and that surface water is not allowed to pond around the well. 

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When does a well need to be abandoned and why?

Wells that are no longer in use must be properly closed.  Open or unprotected wells act as a route for contaminants to quickly reach the groundwater, which can then contaminate other wells.  An unprotected well can also present a significant safety hazard and liability for the owner.  A packet explaining the proper abandonment of wells is provided by the Health Department.  If you still have questions, please contact us.

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Water Testing

How can I test the quality of my private drinking water supply?

You can turn in an application for water testing along with payment to our Environmental Health office.  Our technician will come to your property to collect the sample which is tested at the NC State Laboratory for Public Health.  Once the testing is completed, we will e-mail or mail the results to you.

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What is a bacteria test and what does it tell me?

A bacteria test checks for the presence of total coliform bacteria and fecal coliform bacteria.  These bacteria are not normally present in deeper groundwater sources.  They are associated with warm-blooded animals, so they are normally found in surface water and in shallow groundwater(less than 20 -40 feet in depth).  These bacteria are not necessarily pathogenic bacteria that make people sick but are used as standard indicators of the safety of the water.  If these bacteria are present, then the conditions are favorable for harmful bacteria to exist.  While some people may be unaffected from drinking the water, many have symptoms of stomach and intestinal illness, diarrhea, etc., especially the young, the old and immuno-compromised individuals.

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What do I do if bacteria are found in my well?

It is recommended to disinfect the well by thoroughly chlorinating it and then applying for a re-testing once the chlorine is flushed out.  In the meantime, do not use the water for drinking or cooking unless it is first boiled for one minute.

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What happens if the bacteria return after chlorination?

If you have a return of total coliform bacteria, you can either have the well repaired or install a water treatment system such as a chlorinator or an ultra-violet light system.  If fecal coliform bacteria returns, it is recommended to either repair the well or replace it.  Disinfection treatment is not considered an acceptable remedy for wells with confirmed fecal coliform Bacteria.

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How often do I need to disinfect (chlorinate) my well?

Wells are chlorinated to rid them of bacteria contamination.  Wells that are properly protected with casings and seals and that are properly constructed only need chlorination when the well and pump is first installed and whenever any repair or maintenance is done.  If bacteria continue to return, the well either needs to be repaired, or a continuous disinfection system should be installed.

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How often should I have my well tested?

Wells drilled after July 2008 are tested within 30 days, although wells drilled before that were tested only on request.  After successful initial testing, a properly constructed well would not need re-testing for another 5 or 10 years, however whenever a well has been opened up for repairs or pump replacement, it should be retested.  Also, if there are any distinct changes in the water quality, we recommend that water testing be done.

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My well has a terrible rotten egg (sulfur) smell. What do I do?

These smells are typically caused by sulfur bacteria or sulfate-reducing bacteria.  While not harmful, this can be a very unpleasant condition.  We recommend to first disinfect the well and the water system thoroughly. Be careful to use a strong enough solution and to make sure the chlorine water gets into every portion of the water pipe system.  After flushing out the chlorine, if the smell returns, you may want to apply to our office for a sulfur bacteria sample.

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I am having problems with the quality of my water (cloudy, red, black, or brown colored, green staining, etc).  Where can I find help?

Our office can provide water testing and the testing results.  Please feel free to contact us to discuss the results.  The Water Quality Association also has an interactive guide for diagnosing water problems.

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Do I need to get my water tested for pesticides or petroleum products (VOC)?

Pesticide and petroleum product tests can be somewhat expensive and are usually unnecessary unless there is a known source of contaminants, such as an underground oil or gas tank, or if the water has an odor or taste related to these contaminants.

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