Nearly 1 in 4 Eau Claire County residents get their drinking water from a private well. Cities and villages are required to have their water tested frequently to be sure it is safe to drink. Private wells do not have the same requirement after they are drilled, so well owners are encouraged to test their drinking water at least once a year, as many contaminants cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Environmental Health Specialists at the Health Department can investigate to help determine the cause of poor well water quality.
Routine care for your well by certified professionals can help to ensure the quality of your water and useful life of your well. Maintaining a secure well cover (cap) and keeping chemicals and runoff away from your well are important ways to protect your water quality. See these Eight Tips for Maintaining Your Well.
There are many different water tests available at the Health Department. Nitrate and bacteria are the two most common tests in Eau Claire County and well owners should test their wells every year for nitrate and bacteria. Anytime a well is flooded, or if you notice a change in your water, have your well tested.
Eau Claire County families with a pregnant woman or newborn child in a home with a private well can have FREE water tests for nitrate, bacteria, lead, copper, and fluoride. Call the Health Department at (715) 839-4718 for more information.
Call to speak with laboratory staff about the tests most appropriate for your well. For more information on why or what to test, please read our water testing brochure.
If you have a positive test for bacteria, your well can be disinfected. Many homeowners have successfully chlorinated their own wells. A licensed pump installer can also do this for you.
Qualifying families may be eligible through the DNR to receive funding to replace, reconstruct, or treat a contaminated private well. More information about how to apply can be found here.
Unused, contaminated, or improperly constructed wells risk the safety and quality of groundwater. These wells must be properly filled and sealed by a licensed professional. Eau Claire County offers a cost-sharing program to reimburse eligible owners 50% of the well abandonment cost. Call Eau Claire County Land Conservation Division for more information: (715) 839-6226
Why is groundwater important in Eau Claire County?
All drinking water in Eau Claire County comes from groundwater. It is an important natural resource tens of thousands of years in the making. Generally, our groundwater is very high quality. However, activities on the surface can easily contaminate groundwater, which is very difficult to restore once it has been contaminated. There are approximately 9,000 private wells in Eau Claire County. In addition, all county municipalities rely on groundwater.
How does groundwater get contaminated?
There are some naturally occurring elements of our soils and rocks that can contaminate groundwater, such as arsenic and iron. Human activities, such as spreading fertilizer on lawns, fields, and golf courses can lead to contaminated groundwater as rain infiltrates through the soil to the water table, bringing those chemicals from the surface to the groundwater below. Individual household septic systems can also contribute to groundwater pollution, even if they are functioning well. Septic systems cannot break down all the products that we flush or wash away, such as medications and other substances. Another potential source of groundwater contamination are above and below ground chemical storage tanks which may crack or leak over time.
Wells can serve as a direct pathway for contaminants from the surface to groundwater. Flood waters that surround a well and anything that is poured into a well can contaminate our groundwater. For this reason, unused wells should be filled and sealed as soon as possible by a licensed well driller or pump installer.
What should I test for?
Bacteria and nitrate are two of the most common contaminants in Eau Claire County private wells and should be tested for every year. Both bacteria and nitrate have naturally occurring sources and can not be seen, smelled, or tasted. However, elevated levels indicate that your well is not properly protected and the water from your well may impact you or your family’s health. In addition, if you notice a change of smell, taste, or color of your water, your well may have been impacted by naturally-occurring or chemical contaminants. Eau Claire City-County Health Department staff can help you to determine what tests are needed based on the water characteristics or concerns you have.
How often should I test?
If you rely on water from a private well, you should test your water each year for bacteria and nitrate. If you ever notice a change in taste, color, or smell, have your well tested immediately.
What happens if my well is contaminated?
If your well tests show that your water exceeds a health advisory level, we recommend that you do not drink the water. If bacteria is present in your well, the well can be disinfected. This often resolves the problem. Other water quality issues such as iron, hardness, nitrate, or other metals require different types of treatment. A local plumber can help you determine the best treatment for your well.
The Health Department does not close wells if contamination is found after a lab test. Health Department staff work with well owners to determine the best way to ensure clean drinking water. At times, the most effective treatment option may be the reconstruction or replacement of a well. Eau Claire County offers a cost-sharing program to reimburse eligible owners 50% of the well abandonment cost, before construction begins. Visit the Well Compensation Grant Program webpage or call Eau Claire County Land Conservation Division (715-839-6226) for more information.
Where can I find more information about my well?
Well construction reports are available through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Well Construction Reports webpage.