Testing of Private Water Wells

The Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories (KHEL) discontinued coliform testing of private well samples on August 1, 1989. This decision was based on the conclusion that assuring the safety of private drinking water supplies really requires an assessment of the well location and construction as well as a site assessment for potential contaminants. For example, a poorly constructed well could be free of contaminants one day and then become highly contaminated the next after a heavy rainstorm washes contaminants into the well. Therefore the decision is based on the opinion that a single sample analysis is not indicative of the overall safety or purity of the water. For information on the general quality of water please access the EPA websites for water and safe water.

When assessing potential well water quality, consider the following:

  • Is the well hand-dug, shallow or open to runoff
  • Is the well within 50 feet of a pollution source such as a feedlot or pasture
  • Is the well open at the surface, allowing animals or fecal contamination to enter the water

Proper attention should be paid to the location of a properly constructed well.

Is the well down stream allowing chemicals or fecal contamination to enter the water?

Construction, risk assessment, and location issues must be assessed before testing is considered. A private well should be inspected by a public health professional before testing for bacterial contamination.

Properly Constructed Welll

Contact either your local health department, a local sanitarian, or a Kansas Department of Health and Environment District Office for assistance and before collecting any well samples. Your health department has been given an account number necessary to submit water samples to KHEL's Environmental Microbiology Laboratory. County sanitarians are encouraged to work through local health departments for the analysis of necessary water samples.

Hand dug wells are not a proper method of obtaining quality drinking water.

If a physician or a public health professional believes that a potential health problem exists in your well water, KHEL will test a properly collected water sample for coliform indicators of fecal pollution at no charge, provided the sample is collected by a health professional who has inspected the well for construction and location problems. If the owner of a private well wishes to have a routine test performed on the well he/she should be referred to a private laboratory that is certified by KHEL Any samples that are taken by a Health Professional to be sent to KHEL Environmental Microbiology Lab. must include bottles processed by this lab. The sample kit will include a "Pink Card" and will be referred to as a "Special Study". The sample will be run as a presence/absence test using Defined Substrate Media (DSM). The result should be available in 24 hours from the time received in the laboratory.

View the Disinfecting with Clorox page for additional information.