Health Officials Believe Many State Wells Are Contaminated

Posted at: 03/12/2013 9:48 PM
Updated at: 03/12/2013 10:45 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Many of us take our tap water for granted, or use in-home filters if we want to make sure it's clean.

But the Minnesota Department of Health has warned that may not be enough.

Health officials estimate that over one million Minnesotans use private wells, and that nearly a quarter of those could be contaminated by harmful bacteria.

The contaminants can cause health problems, especially for small children, which is why officials said it's a problem that should not go overlooked.

“In higher volumes nitrates can be a bigger concern,” said Justin Hanson, a resource specialist with the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District. “You don't know what the long term effects are as well if you're consuming it over a long period of time."

That's why health department officials strongly encourage people to get their water tested.

“When I've had my well tested it's always come back good,” said Harlan Griese, who lives just north of Austin and has a well that is likely more than 60 years old. “But I’m not scared of my water. Out here it's good and clear and tastes good, and even my son comes and gets water sometimes."

Experts admit that people who do have contaminated water have few options.

“Wells are pretty significant amounts of water, so it's not like you can just treat them,” Hanson said. “Most of the folks with really high levels are just finding alternatives for drinking water."

And drinking water is the biggest concern. Experts said most contaminated water is still usable for bathing and other household uses.

Spring flooding is not expected to affect well water quality because the water takes a long time to seep through the ground.

But if you are concerned with your water quality, health officials encourage you to contact your local public health agency.