In Illinois, no laws require that private wells are tested
for contaminants. When obtaining a mortgage loan, banks and
federal programs often require testing, but the analysis may not
cover certain contaminants that have caused a local concern.
Arsenic has been found in well water in Tazewell County and in
other areas. Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soils, and is
used in various industries.
Check with your local health department for their
recommendations on well water testing, advises Wilson. Local or
state offices should be able to offer advice on contaminants
that have been found in water locally. In addition, once you
have the well tested, they can help you interpret the results.
“When buying a property, have the well water tested,” Wilson
said. “Even if you have to pay for the analysis yourself, it is
Each year, wells should be tested for coliform bacteria and
nitrate. When purchasing a new home, well water should also be
tested for fluoride, iron, lead, manganese, sulfate, pH, copper,
zinc, cadmium, arsenic, chloride, and total dissolved solids.
Regular testing can indicate changes.
“Groundwater quality doesn’t change dramatically, so if there is
a change over time, it could indicate a breach in the well or
some other change worth investigating,” Wilson said. “Coliform
bacteria may not make you sick, but it indicates a possible
pathway into your well. If there’s a pathway into your well,
viruses, bacteria of all kinds, and other contaminants can enter
the well. This is something that you’ll want to investigate.”
New homeowners who are interested in learning how to maintain
their own wells can take the Private Well Class, offered by the
Illinois State Water Survey and Illinois Water Resources Center.
The class is a free, step-by-step online education program to
help well owners understand groundwater basics, well care best
practices, and how to find assistance.
For more information, visit the Private Well Class website -
http://www.privatewellclass.org or e-mail
[Lisa A. Sheppard]
The Illinois State Water Survey at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a division of
the Prairie Research Institute, is the primary agency in
Illinois concerned with water and atmospheric resources.