Your well water can affect the health of everyone who drinks it. For more information on interpreting your drinking water test results, please contact your local public health unit.
Know Who To Contact
Public Health Unit, if you:
- suspect that surface water or human or animal waste has entered your well
- need a drinking water sample collection kit to test for bacterial contamination or
- want help to understand the result of your drinking water test
Contact Public Health UnitOntario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care:INFOline 1(866) 532-3161, TTY 1(800) 387-5559
Public Health Ontario Laboratories, if you:
- need a drinking water sample collection kit to test for bacterial contamination
Contact PHOLPHOL Customer Service Centre, 1(877) 604-4567 or (416) 235-6556
Licensed Private Laboratory, if you:
- are concerned about chemicals in your well, such as sulphur or nitrates
Contact the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to find a licensed private laboratory near you:www.ene.gov.on.ca or 1(800) 565-4923 or (416) 325-4000
Licensed Well Contractor, if you:
- are concerned your well is improperly constructed or needs upgrading or maintenance
Search for Water Well Drilling and Services in your local Yellow Pages
Test Your Well WaterIt's important to collect your sample properly. The accuracy of your test results depends on it.At the PHOL, we test for the indicators of bacterial contamination: coliforms and E. coli. We do not test for other contaminants such as chemicals. This means that even if your result shows there is no bacterial contamination in your drinking water, it still may be unsafe to drink. To find out how to test for other contaminants, contact your local public health unit.
Test OftenDrinking water quality can change frequently. The best way to protect your drinking water is to test often. If you have a concern about the quality of your drinking water, contact your local public health unit.
Take a drinking water sample
To avoid false positive results, follow these steps when you collect your sample:
- Pick up a drinking water sample collection kit from your nearest PHOL, public health unit, or designated pickup location in your area.
- Use the sample bottle provided in the kit. We only accept drinking water that is collected directly into this bottle. Check the lid of the bottle to make sure the tamper-evident ring is not separated from the cap. If it is, use a new collection kit.
- Plan to sample your well water when you are sure it can be delivered to the PHOL in time. (Please Note: The PHOL is not located at the public health unit except in Sudbury). Samples must be tested within 48 hours of collection. If the sample is too old when they are received at the laboratory, it will not be tested. Check with your public health unit to find out when you need to drop your sample off so it will be received in time.
- Remove any aerator, screen, or other attachment from your kitchen faucet. If you cannot do this, take a sample from an inside tap with no aerator, such as the bathtub. Do not take a sample from an outside faucet or the garden hose.
- Swab the end of the faucet spout with alcohol (e.g. alcohol prep pad) or diluted bleach solution (1 part household bleach to 10 parts water) to remove debris or bacteria. Do not disinfect the spout with a flame because this can damage the faucet.
- Turn on the cold water. Let it run for two to three minutes to remove standing water from your plumbing system.
- Remove the lid of the sample bottle. Do not touch the inside of the lid, put the lid down, or rinse out the bottle.
- Fill the bottle to the level that is marked (see instructions in kit). Close the lid firmly
Fill out the formRead the Changes to Drinking Water Testing Requisition for some important information you will need to fill out the form.
- Fill out all the gray-shaded areas on the form. If your form is incomplete, PHOL will not test your sample and you will need to send in another sample with another form. Include the following:
- Your first and last names
- Your complete mailing address
- Your daytime telephone number (include your area code)
- The location of your well (include postal code)
- Date and time you collected the sample (include year)
- Public health unit number. See page 2 of the form to find the public health unit associated with the location of the water source
- Tell us how you want to receive your report (by mail or pickup at the laboratory)
- Write your name on the nametag that is on the plastic bag. Peel the nametag off and stick it to the bottle. The name on the nametag must match the name on the form. Do not cover the barcodes.
- You can choose to get your report in person, or by mail. Just check off the correct box on the form. If you want to get your results by telephone, remove one of the barcodes from the bottle and stick it to the "Water Results by Telephone" card in the kit. The number on the barcode is your Personal Identification Number (PIN). You'll need it to get your results by telephone.
Protect Your Well WaterIf you have had unacceptable test results in the past, take action to improve the long-term quality of your drinking water:
- Contact your local public health unit or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for information.
- Disinfect your well and entire household plumbing system if test results show significant levels of bacterial contamination. Contact your local public health unit. Refer to the Well Disinfection Tool or Technical Bulletin Wells Regulation - Well Disinfection.
- Re-test your well water to make sure your drinking water supply does not contain significant amounts of bacterial contaminants.
- Get your well and plumbing system professionally inspected if your drinking water quality does not improve. A licensed well contractor will be able to give you some options for fixing the problem.While regular testing is an important way to check the safety of your drinking water, you can prevent problems and protect the quality of your drinking water by properly maintaining your well. As a private well owner, you are responsible for preventing surface water and other foreign materials from entering your well. Contact your local public health unit or the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for more information.
More InformationInstructions for Official Agencies Submitting Water Samples to the Public Health Ontario LaboratoriesINFOline 1 866 532 3161TTY 1 800 387 55591 800 565 49231 877 424 1300