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Annual well water testing should be on tap for seasonal cottage owners and everyone else

APRIL 29 Your cottage, cabin or year-round home comes with its own set of seasonal rituals. If you have a seasonal place, chances are you'll soon be firing up the well pump for the first time in months, and flushing who-knows-what out of the pipes. But even the most crystal-clear water may contain pathogens, microbes and bacteria that are harmful to your health, according to Scott Kendzierski, Director of Environmental Health Services for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.

That's why the Health Department offers two types of well water testing kits at its offices throughout Northwest Michigan. The Bacteriological (Coliform) Kit, which tests for the presence of E.coli and other bacteria, is available for $18. The Partial Chemistry Kit, which tests levels of fluoride, chloride, hardness, iron, sodium, sulfates, nitrites and nitrates, is $20. Samples can be dropped off during scheduled drop-off hours at Health Department offices in Bellaire, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs/Petoskey and Gaylord. Samples are then analyzed at the Health Department's Northern Michigan Regional Laboratory, and results are generally available within two to three days.

"This should be part of the seasonal routine for every private well owner," Kendzierski said. "It's one of the simplest and least expensive things you can do to protect your health, and the health of those you love." He added that well water testing is especially important for anyone with infants or children, as unsafe water can contaminate infant formulas and can lead to illness among those who consume tap water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends annual well water testing, and the best time to do it is in the spring, following a rainy period.

Kendzierski explained that the presence of a contaminant in your well water does not necessarily mean there's a problem. However, when levels exceed state or federal health standards or recommended action levels, you should take steps to correct the situation. Health Department staff provide free consultation to help you develop a plan to resolve the problem. In most cases, the plan will call for identifying the source of contamination, having the well chlorinated, making well construction improvements or adding a water filtration/purification system.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information about well water testing, visit or call the Health Department at (800) 432-4121.