If you live within a municipality, your water quality is regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Public water supplies are tested on a regular basis and test information is available to the public.
Private well owners are responsible for their own water quality. It is important to test your well annually to make sure there are no harmful bacteria or other chemicals present in your drinking water.
Your first step should be to contact the Lewis and Clark County Water Quality Protection District, or a testing lab like Energy Lab or the State Laboratory. Montana State University Extension also runs the Well Educated Program. Any of these should be able to give you guidance on recommended tests for your water. You should always test for bacteria and nitrates. Every five years or so you may want to broaden your sampling by testing pH, dissolved solids, alkalinity, & a variety of other concerns (selenium, uranium, arsenic, pesticides, and VOC’s ).
Testing should be conducted if you notice a change in your water. Ideally you will want to test your well in the morning on a Monday and deliver or mail the samples to the lab on the same day because the bacteria in the samples are only good for a little over a day. Results should be done by the end of the week.
Collect the water for the sampling from a faucet that has both hot and cold settings, remove any type of treatment device and the aeration device. Wash your hands and sanitize the mouth of the faucet, then let it flush for a few minutes to avoid any contamination.
Steps to Protect Your Well
It is important to make sure your well is protected from infestations of insects and the chance for vermin to enter into your wellhead and become trapped; a sanitary seal (vs. a cap) is your best option and check your conduit to ensure a good seal, as they settle over time.
You also want to make sure you do not have large manure piles next to your well heads or places that require herbicide applications, as leaching will contaminate your drinking water and potentially the groundwater which supplies you and your neighbors. Ideally the ground around your well head should appear as a mound and slope away from the wellhead, this is ideal to keep all hazardous contaminants out of your water.
It is important to regularly check the pit to ensure the wiring, adapters, and plumbing are not damaged, properly insulated, and nothing is being stored within the vicinity. It is also important to keep records of maintenance for your well and septic system.
How We Can Help
The Conservation District works with the Water Quality Protection District as well as the Well Educated Program to get the community engaged with well testing and to be able to provide better information about the ground water in the Helena Valley.
Test Kits are free and you can obtain them from the Water Quality Protection District. The Conservation District, upon receipt of your results, will cover $25 of the well testing cost. Please call the WQPD at 406-447-8584 about a well testing kit and what steps you can take to test and regulate your well.