Water Quality Testing

Water quality testing

Polk County Health Center provides fresh water testing for all Polk County residents at the cost of $10.00 per test. If residents have private wells, they may obtain a test kit with instructions from the Health Department. Once the water is received from the individual, testing is performed to isolate bacterial organisms that may be hazardous to the drinking water. After 48 hours, results are posted and mailed to the individuals. If there are problems with the sample, instructions on how to treat the well are sent to the homeowner. Samples should be taken on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.The bacterial kit tests for coliform and e-coli bacteria.

If you have any questions, or wish to obtain a test kit, please contact us at 417-326-7250

 

Examples of Water Quality Indicators:

·         Total Coliforms

Coliform bacteria are microbes found in the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals, in soil, on plants, and in surface water. These microbes typically do not make you sick; however, because microbes that do cause disease are hard to test for in the water, "total coliforms" are tested instead. If the total coliform count is high, then it is very possible that harmful germs like viruses, bacteria, and parasites might also be found in the water.

·         Fecal Coliforms / Escherichia coli (E. coli)

Fecal coliform bacteria are a specific kind of total coliform. The feces (or stool) and digestive systems of humans and warm-blooded animals contain millions of fecal coliforms. E. coli is part of the fecal coliform group and may be tested for by itself. Fecal coliforms and E. coli are usually harmless. However, a positive test may mean that feces and harmful germs have found their way into your water system. These harmful germs can cause diarrhea, dysentery, and hepatitis. It is important not to confuse the test for the common and usually harmless WQI E. coli with a test for the more dangerous germ E. coli O157:H7.

·         pH

The pH level tells you how acidic or basic your water is. The pH level of the water can change how your water looks and tastes. If the pH of your water is too low or too high, it could damage your pipes, cause heavy metals like lead to leak out of the pipes into the water, and eventually make you sick.

Examples of Contaminants:                  

·         Nitrate

Nitrate is naturally found in many types of food. However, high levels of nitrate in drinking water can make people sick. Nitrate in your well water can come from animal waste, private septic systems, wastewater, flooded sewers, polluted storm water runoff, fertilizers, agricultural runoff, and decaying plants. The presence of nitrate in well water also depends on the geology of the land around your well. A nitrate test is recommended forall wells. If the nitrate level in your water is higher than the EPA standards, you should look for other sources of water or ways to treat your water.

·         Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are industrial and fuel-related chemicals that may cause bad health effects at certain levels. Which VOCs to test for depends on where you live. Contact your local health or environmental department, or the EPA to find out if any VOCs are a problem in your region. Some VOCs to ask about testing for are benzene, carbon tetrachloride, toluene, trichloroethelene, and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).

Other germs or harmful chemicals that you should test for will depend on where your well is located on your property, which state you live in, and whether you live in an urban or rural area. These tests could include testing for lead, arsenic, mercury, radium, atrazine, and other pesticides. You should check with your local health or environmental department, or the EPA to find out if any of these contaminants are a problem in your region.

Please remember that if your test results say that there are germs or chemicals in your water, you should contact your local health or environmental department for guidance in interpreting the test.

When to have your well tested

At a minimum, check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems; test it once each year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, you should test for those as well. However, spend time identifying potential problems as these tests can be expensive. The best way to start is to consult a local expert, such as the local health department, about local contaminants of concern. You should also have your well tested if:

·         There are known problems with well water in your area

·         You have experienced problems near your well (i.e., flooding, land disturbances, and nearby waste disposal sites)

·         You replace or repair any part of your well system

·         You notice a change in water quality (i.e., taste, color, odor)

Frequently Asked Questions

General

Where does my drinking water come from?

The drinking water that is supplied to our homes comes from either surface water or ground water. Surface water collects in streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Ground water is water located below the ground where it collects in pores and spaces within rocks and in underground aquifers. We obtain ground water by drilling wells and pumping it to the surface.

Public water systems provide water from surface and ground water for public use. Water treatment systems are either government or privately-held facilities. Surface water systems withdraw water from the source, treat it, and deliver it to our homes. Ground water systems also withdraw and deliver water, but they do not always treat it. For more information on public water systems visit CDCs public water systems page. For more information on how public water systems treat water, visit CDCs water treatment page.

A private well uses ground water as its water source. Owners of private wells and other individual water systems are responsible for ensuring that their water is safe from contaminants. For more information on private wells and individual water systems, visit CDC's private wells page

Public Water Systems

What type of health issues can be related to water quality?

The presence of certain contaminants in our water can lead to health issues, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and immunocompromised persons may be especially at risk for becoming ill after drinking contaminated water. For example, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Federal law requires that systems reduce certain contaminants to set levels, in order to protect human health.

 

How do I know that the water in my home is safe to drink?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for making sure that public water supplies within the United States are safe. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law sought to protect the nation’s public drinking water supply by giving EPA authority to set the standards for drinking water quality and oversee the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards. In 1986 and 1996, the law was amended to protect drinking water and its sources, which include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells.

 

How do contaminants (germs and chemicals) get into my drinking water?

There can be many sources of contamination of our water systems. Here is a list of the most common sources of contaminants:

·         Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium)

·         Local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, concentrated animal feeding operations)

·         Manufacturing processes

·         Sewer overflows

·         Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (for example, nearby septic systems)

Many contaminants that pose known human health risks are regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA makes sure that water meets certain standards, so you can be sure that high levels of contaminants are not in your water.

 

Who do I need to contact to find out more information about water quality in my area?

Every community water supplier must provide an annual report, sometimes called a Consumer Confidence Report, or "CCR," to its customers. The report provides information on your local drinking water quality, including the water's source, contaminants found in the water, and how consumers can get involved in protecting drinking water.

·         View the CDC's guide to Understanding Consumer Confidence Reports

·         See if your CCR is posted online (United States Environmental Protection Agency Local Drinking Water Information)

 

How often does our public water system test our drinking water?

Frequency of drinking water testing depends on the number of people served, the type of water source, and types of contaminants. Certain contaminants are tested for more frequently than others, as set forth by the Safe Drinking Water Act. You can find out about levels of regulated contaminants in your treated water for the preceding calendar year in your annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).

 

What common contaminants are included in this testing?

The EPA sets standards and regulations for the presence and amount of over 90 different contaminants in public drinking water, including E.coli,Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium species. More information regarding the specific contaminants and maximum contaminant levels can be found on the EPA’s website  

 

What should I do if I want my household water tested?

The United States has one of the safest public water supplies in the world. However, if you are concerned about contaminants in your home’s water system, contact your state drinking water certification officer to obtain a list of certified laboratories in your state. Depending on how many contaminants you wish to test for, a water test can cost from $15 to hundreds of dollars.  

 

Who should I contact if my water has a funny smell, taste, or appearance?

A change in your water's taste, color, or smell is not necessarily a health concern. However, sometimes changes can be a sign of problems. If you notice a change in your water, call you public water system company.

If you want to test your water, your local health department should assist in explaining any tests that you need for various contaminants. If your local health department is not able to help you can contact a state certified laboratory to perform the test. To find a state certified laboratory in your area call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.

 

How can I find out if there has been a violation in our public water standard?

When water quality standards have not been met, your public water system must notify you through the media (television or radio), mail, or other means. Your annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) is another way to find out about the water quality in your area. It provides information regarding contaminants, possible health effects, and the water’s source.

 

How do I find out if there is a boil water advisory or other water advisory in my community?

Your public water system is responsible for notifying residents if the water quality does not meet United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or state standards or if there is a waterborne disease emergency. The EPA sets guidelines for when residents must be notified depending on the seriousness of a contamination event.

You should be notified by the media (TV, radio), mail, or other means.  There are three levels of public notification. A Tier 1 notification pertains to the most serious and acute contamination events. Notification must be broadcast by local media within 24 hours. Tier 2 allows for a 30-day notification. Tier 3 provides notification through the annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).

 

If there is a boil water advisory in my community, how do I disinfect my drinking water?

In order to disinfect your drinking water during a boil water advisory, you should boil your water at a rolling boil for at least one minute (at altitudes greater than 6,562 feet (> 2000 meters), boil water for 3 minutes). Boiling your water for at least one minute at a rolling boil will inactivate all harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses from drinking water.

Chemicals (for example, bleach) are sometimes used for disinfecting small volumes of drinking water for household use. The parasite Cryptosporidiumcan survive a long time, even after the water is treated with chlorine or iodine. Cryptosporidium can be removed from water by filtering through a reverse osmosis filter, an "absolute one micron" filter, or a filter certified to remove Cryptosporidium under NSF International Standard #53 for either "cyst removal" or "cyst reduction." Filtering does not remove bacteria and viruses. Ultraviolet light treatment of water is not effective against Cryptosporidium at normally used levels.

 

Wells

What are the main types of ground water wells?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are three basic types of private drinking wells dug, drilled, and driven. Proper well construction and continued maintenance are keys to the safety of your water supply. It is important to know what type of well you have. Well type affects how likely your water is to become contaminated and what kind of maintenance procedures you should follow. You may be able to determine the type of well you have by looking at the outer casing and cover of the well.

 

As a private well owner, should I have my well tested?

Yes, as a private well owner, you are responsible for testing your well to ensure that your well water is safe to drink. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for making sure that the public water supply within the United States is safe. However, the EPA does not monitor or treat private well drinking water. For information on testing your well water, visit Drinking Water's Well Testing page.
 

 

How do contaminants (germs and chemicals) get into my well water?

A private well uses ground water as its water source. There are many sources of contamination of ground water. Here is a list of the most common sources of contaminants:

·         Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium)

·         Local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, animal feeding operations, biosolids application)

·         Manufacturing processes

·         Sewer overflows

·         Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (for example, nearby septic systems)


The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate private wells. You are responsible for testing your well water and making sure it is safe.

 

My well water has a funny smell or taste; should I worry about getting sick?

Any time you notice a significant change in your water quality, you should have it tested. A change in your water's taste, color, or smell is not necessarily a health concern. However, sometimes changes can be a sign of problems.

 
 

What germs and chemicals should I test for in my well?

Several water quality indicators (WQIs) and contaminants that should be tested for in your water are listed below. A WQI test is a test that measures the presence and amount of certain germs in water. In most cases, WQIs do not cause sickness; however, they are easy to test for and their presence may indicate the presence of sewage and other disease-causing germs from human and/or animal feces. For more information on these contaminants and WQIs, please see the Drinking Water's Well Testing page.

Water Quality Indicators:

·         Total Coliforms

·         Fecal Coliforms / Escherichia coli (E. coli)

·         pH

Contaminants:

·         Nitrate

·         Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)


Other germs or harmful chemicals that you should test for will depend on where your well is located on your property, which state you live in, and whether you live in an urban or rural area. These tests could include testing for lead, arsenic, mercury, radium, atrazine, and other pesticides. You should check with your local health or environmental department to find out if any of these contaminants are a problem in your region.

Please remember that if your test results say that there are germs or chemicals in your water, you should contact your local health or environmental department for help in interpreting the test, receive guidance on how to respond to the contamination, and test your water more often.

 

When should I have my well tested?

You should have your well tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, you should test for those as well. However, spend time identifying potential problems as these tests can be expensive. You should also have your well tested if:

·         There are known problems with well water in your area

·         You have experienced problems near your well (i.e., flooding, land disturbances, and nearby waste disposal sites)

·         You replace or repair any part of your well system

·         You notice a change in water quality (i.e., taste, color, odor)

 

Who should test my well?

State and local health or environmental departments often test for nitrates, total coliforms, fecal coliforms, volatile organic compounds, and pH (see above). Health or environmental departments, or county governments should also have a list of the state-certified (licensed) laboratories in your area that test for a variety of Water Quality Indicators (WQIs) and contaminants.

For more information, visit one of the links below or contact your local health department or the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.

Storm water Runoff

Storm water runoff can contain sediment from erosion of soil; phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizers, grass clippings and leaves; bacteria from animal waste; and many other pollutants such as petroleum products or metals from automobiles and industrial activity. Storm water runoff does not go to a treatment facility. The big-deal about nutrient runoff is that excess fertilizer runs off the urban lawn and finds its way into the streams, lakes, creeks, etc., fertilizing the algae in the waterways causing overgrowth. When this overgrowth occurs, it reduces the amount of available oxygen for fish and aquatic life, resulting in death. To help cut down on runoff in your lawn, direct water flow through grassy or mulched areas. The idea is to keep the water from running off down the driveway into the storm drain.

To maintain our high quality of life and beautiful environment in a time of rapid growth, we must properly manage urban storm water runoff. Prevention is the best cure. In the Ozarks, many streams have already been damaged by the urban runoff. It is critical that we plan new development to minimize the negative effects.

Runoff and water quality

 A significant portion of rainfall in forested watersheds is absorbed into soils (infiltration), is stored as groundwater, and is slowly discharged to streams through seeps and springs. Flooding is less significant in these more natural conditions because some of the runoff during a storm is absorbed into the ground, thus lessening the amount of runoff into a stream during the storm.

As watersheds are urbanized, much of the vegetation is replaced by impervious surfaces, thus reducing the area where infiltration to groundwater can occur. Thus, more stormwater runoff occurs—runoff that must be collected by extensive drainage systems that combine curbs, storm sewers (as shown in this picture), and ditches to carry stormwater runoff directly to streams. More simply, in a developed watershed, much more water arrives into a stream much more quickly, resulting in an increased likelihood of more frequent and more severe flooding.

A storm sewer intake such as the one in this picture is a common site on almost all streets. Stormflows (and kids' toys!) are collected by these drains and the water is delivered through pipes to nearby creeks and streams; storm sewers help to prevent flooding on neighborhood streets.

Drainage ditches to carry stormwater runoff to storage ponds are often built to hold runoff and collect excess sediment in order to keep it out of streams.

Runoff from agricultural land (and even our own yards) can carry excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus into streams, lakes, and groundwater supplies. These excess nutrients have the potential to degrade water quality.

Why is stormwater runoff a problem?

As it flows over the land surface, stormwater picks up potential pollutants that may include sediment, nutrients (from lawn fertilizers), bacteria (from animal and human waste), pesticides (from lawn and garden chemicals), metals (from rooftops and roadways), and petroleum by-products (from leaking vehicles). Pollution originating over a large land area without a single point of origin and generally carried by stormwater is considered non-point pollution. In contrast, point sources of pollution originate from a single point, such as a municipal or industrial discharge pipe. Polluted stormwater runoff can be harmful to plants, animals, and people.

Runoff can carry a lot of sediment

When storms hit and streamflows increase, the sediment moved into the river by runoff can end up being seen from hundreds of miles up by satellites. The right-side pictures shows the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in Florida in October 1999. Sediment-filled rivers are dumping tremendous amounts of suspended sediment into the Atlantic Ocean. The sediment being dumped into the oceans has an effect on the ecology of the oceans, both in a good and bad way. And, this is one of the ways that the oceans have become what they are: salty.

 

Rain Gardens and Barrels

Rain gardens can absorb 30% more water than the same size area of lawn. Catching water in a rain garden allows it to slowly filter into the ground. This means less rainwater is lost into our storm sewers which also mean there is less flooding and erosion in our streams. What a beautiful way to help. 

Rain barrels can be used to collect and hold rainwater, which can later be used to water your flowers, trees, or vegetable garden. Did you know that 30-60% of urban fresh water is used for watering lawns? A rain barrel can hold the water until you are ready to use it, cutting down the waste of our natural supply.

For more information visit

If you are interested in the effects of storm water runoff in the Bolivar area, please contact the Bolivar Community Watershed Improvement Group (BCWIG) to see how you can help.

 

What are rain gardens? Rain gardens are depressional areas landscaped with perennial flowers and native vegetation that soak up r a i n w a t e r. They are strategically located to capture r u n o ff from impervious surfaces, such as roofs and streets. Rain gardens fill with a few inches of water after a storm and then water filters into the ground, rather than running off to a storm drain.

Why are rain gardens important? As cities and suburbs grow, increased storm water r u n o ff from impervious surfaces becomes a problem. As more impervious surfaces are added to our communities, it is more important than ever to help rainwater infiltrate. This protects water quality and reduces storm water runoff . Storm water runoff from developed areas increases flooding potential and carries pollutants from streets, parking lots and lawns into local streams and lakes. Rain gardens can absorb most rainfall e v e n t s .

Rain Gardens . . . absorb water, reduce runoff, prevent flooding 2 0 0 5 This rain garden is strategically placed to capture runoff from the lawn and street.

 Designing and Planting Designing and planting a rain garden is very similar to creating other perennial gardens, with a few of the following e x c e p t i o n s :

Location Rain gardens must be located to intercept runoff from impervious areas. T h e y can be placed anywhere good soils with adequate percolation rates exist. It is best to keep rain gardens away from building foundations, utilities, and septic systems.

Size Rain gardens are typically 5 to 10 percent the size of the impervious surface generating the runoff entering the garden. Measure the square footage of the impervious area (length x width); then multiply this by 0.07 (7 percent). Determine a length and width of the rain garden that best fits the site. For example, a 2,000 sq./ft. roof, when multiplied by 7 percent, would call for a rain garden 140 sq./ft. in size, or 14’ long by 10’ wide.

Garden Depth A typical rain garden is between four and eight inches deep. A r a i n garden less than four inches deep will need too much surface area to provide enough water storage to infiltrate larger storms. Storm water runoff should spread evenly across the entire rain garden, to increase the opportunity for infiltration.

Soil Amendments To prepare for a rain garden, remove soil to create a depressional area. Blend in soil, sand, and compost mixture to enhance infiltrat i o n .

Plant Selection While rain gardens are a highly functional way to help protect water quality, they can also be an attractive part of your yard and neighborhood. Choose native plants based on site considerations for light, moisture, and soil. Vary plant structure, height, and flower color for seasonal appeal and butterfly habitat. Mowed grass borders are recommended around the garden. Young plants, or plugs, are best for rain gardens because they are easier to establish and maintain. When laying plants out, randomly clump individual species in groups of 3 to 5 plants to provide bolder color. Be sure to repeat these individual groupings to create repetition and cohesion in a planting. It is a good idea to place plant labels next to each individual grouping. This will help identify the young native plants from weeds as you maintain the garden. It is important to water rain gardens regularly throughout the first season. Once established, they will thrive without additional watering. A shredded wood mulch is an important part of a rain garden. Mulch helps retain moisture and discourages weed seeds from germinating. Native landscaping adds color, structure, and diversity to the landscape and provides habitat for butterflies. . . .

Low Impact Development (LID) A rain garden is an example of the low impact development (LID) approach to storm water management. Traditionally, storm water management has involved the rapid conveyance of water via storm sewers to surface waters. Low impact development is a different approach that retains and infiltrates rainfall on-site. The LID approach emphasizes site design and planning techniques that mimic the natural infiltrationbased, groundwater-driven hydrology of our historic landscape.

How To Design and Build A Rain Garden Determine the location for a rain garden. The location should be situated so runoff from the impervious surface you want to manage can be intercepted. You may see in some information that a place that ponds water is a good location for a rain garden. This can be misleading. A rain garden must have adequate percolation rates. Remember the goal is to infiltrate impounded runoff in a relatively short period of time (i.e. 12 - 24 hours). A place that ponds water will obviously be a place where water moves to but if it ponds water for any length of time then it probably does not have adequate percolation rates for a rain garden. (See information on bioretention cells). Conduct soil investigation to ensure you have adequate percolation rates. You should have a minimum perc rate of 0.5 inches/hour, but it’s better to have 1 inch/hour or higher perc rates.

Plant trees

Trees are an important part of any home landscape. They offer needed shade and beauty. They also can catch and slow rainfall, reducing the amount of runoff and allowing more infiltration to groundwater. When planting trees, don't overlook the value of mulch around the tree base. Mulch provides weed control, cooling of the soil, moisture retention, and protection from the weed eater.

Benefits of Trees

Trees can add value to your home, help cool your home and neighborhood, break the cold winds to lower your heating costs, and provide food for wildlife.

The Value of Trees to a Community

The following are some statistics on just how important trees are in a community setting.

The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. U.S. Department of Agriculture

If you plant a tree today on the west side of your home, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less. In 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%. Dr. E. Greg McPherson, Center for Urban Forest Research

A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000. Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers

In one study, 83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98%. Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests

Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values as much as 20 percent. Management Information Services/ICMA

One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. U.S. Department of Agriculture

There are about 60– to 200-million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs. National Wildlife Federation

Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating. USDA Forest Service

Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent. The Arbor Day Foundation

Healthy, mature trees add an average of 10 percent to a property’s value. USDA Forest Service

The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams. USDA Forest Service

In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. Dr. Roger S. Ulrich Texas A&M University

Nationally, the 60 million street trees have an average value of $525 per tree. Management Information Services

To help locate New York City’s heritage trees, the City Department of Parks and Recreation conducted a program called the “Great Tree Search.” New Yorkers looked for trees of unusual size and age, those linked with historic landmarks, and trees of unusual species or location. On Arbor Day, they held a big party to celebrate New York City’s Great Trees.

After a tornado destroyed more than 800 trees in Cardington, Ohio, citizens organized a tree restoration committee which solicited donations and memorials. Volunteers who learned of the tree planting through local newspaper articles appeared on Arbor Day to wrap trunks, water, mulch, and stake 40 large trees which were planted along major streets.

What does this mean to you?

We all pay for property damages resulting from floods. We could all get sick from contaminated drinking water or from swimming in bacteria-laden streams. Toxic chemicals in runoff can build up in our food chain, including game fish.