Safe and Sound: Testing your private water well for bacteria

Safe and Sound: Testing your private water well for bacteria

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Unlike public water systems that are tested daily, private water wells are only tested when the system owner requests it.

Dougherty County is offering a test to check your private water well for bacteria to help prevent you and your family from getting sick.

James Davis, environmental health manager, recommends that you get your well tested for total coliform and fecal coliform once a year.

At your request, an environmental health specialist, like Patrina Dawson, will come out to your house to take a sample and bring it back to the downtown lab to incubate for 24 hours.

The process starts by running the water for a few seconds until you hear the well turn on.

The testing process starts by running the water for a few seconds until you hear the well turn on. (Source: WALB)
The testing process starts by running the water for a few seconds until you hear the well turn on. (Source: WALB)

Then, the specialist torches the spigot to sterilize it before collecting the sample.

Once it’s back at the lab, they test with a product that acts as food for the bacteria.

"After 24 hours, I will look at the sample and if there’s no coloration, if it continues to be clear then that means the sample is negative, " Dawson said.

Said Davis: “If it’s yellow that’s a sign that it’s positive for bacteria. If we put it under a UV light and it glows that’s a sign that it’s positive for fecal coliform.”

Then, they contact you to let you know the well will need to be chlorinated and then retested to make sure there’s no chlorine or bacteria in the well.

James Davis, Dougherty County’s environmental health manager. (Source: WALB)
James Davis, Dougherty County’s environmental health manager. (Source: WALB)

Health officials also recommend getting your well tested after a strong storm, like Hurricane Michael, that causes power outages, which can cause a backflow.

“That bacteria is actually sucked back into your well during a power outage, so it’s important after an event like that you get your well tested to make sure that it is bacteria free,” Davis said.

They even recommended a test after heavy rain falls cause flooding situations, because what you have is the contaminated water from the ground actually going into your well.

"The water actually goes under and down your pipe, so basically what you got is contaminated going directly into your well because it has access to your pipes," Davis added.

Patrina Dawson, environmental health speciailist. (Source: WALB)
Patrina Dawson, environmental health speciailist. (Source: WALB)

To set up your appointment, you may apply for service at your local environmental health office.

In addition to annual bacterial sampling, public health officials recommend contacting your local University of Georgia extension agent to obtain a W33 water analysis every three years.

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