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Information Bulletin: Temporary Program, Private Drinking Water Well Testing

-Extended to January 31, 2022-

What is the purpose of this program?

Privately owned and operated wells in areas affected by floods may have become contaminated or damaged by the flooding, leading to unsafe water. Areas where there has been emergency application of manure on farmland may be also impacted. The program will provide testing for safety.

  • In flood impacted areas, well water should be considered not fit for human consumption until the well is assessed and the water is disinfected and tested (see below under more information)
  • The Ministry of Health, Interior Health, Fraser Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory are offering bacteriological testing (i.e., E. coli) for private drinking water wells affected by the recent flooding events
  • Testing will help well owners determine the bacteriological quality of their water and thus, suitability for human consumption
  • The program has been extended to January 31, 2022

Who is eligible?

To qualify, one of the following criteria must be met:

  • The well must be located in an area directly impacted by flooding during the 2021 atmospheric river events. This may include those private well owners impacted by an evacuation order or an evacuation alert
  • The well is at increased risk of contamination due to an emergency order authorizing an application of liquid manure in the vicinity of their well

Important notice:
If you have a private surface water intake used for drinking water, contact your health authority for information on eligibility.

What services are being offered?

This initiative is limited to the following services for owners of private drinking water wells:

  • Health authorities will facilitate sampling for private well owners by providing pickup and drop off locations for bacteriological samples for transportation to approved laboratories
  • The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is offering subsidized bacteriological testing of samples for eligible well owners for a limited time in response to flooding
  • Health authorities will offer help in interpreting water testing results

Limitations

Limitations of the program may include the following:

  • Testing will be offered until January 31, 2022. This date could change depending on need.
  • Testing is limited to bacteriological testing. (This does not cover chemical testing. If you smell gas or suspect other chemical contamination you need to refrain from consuming water and contact a laboratory that does chemical testing. See Government of British Columbia: Directory of Qualified Laboratories
  • Any work required to be done on the well to make it safe is the responsibility of the well owner and may require hiring a qualified person (see below under more information)

How do I participate?

Step 1. Confirm Eligibility

You must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • The well must be located in an area directly impacted by flooding during the 2021 atmospheric river events. This may include those private well owners impacted by an evacuation order or an evacuation alert
  • Wells at increased risk of contamination due to an emergency order authorizing an application of liquid manure in the vicinity of their well
  • If you have a private surface water intake used for drinking water, contact your health authority for information on eligibility

Step 2. Disinfect your well

Step 3. Pick up sample kits according to directions from your health authority (see below)

  • Sample kits will include bottles, instructions and requisition forms. Health authorities will provide pick up and drop off locations as follows:

Interior Health Authority

The following locations are for pick up and drop-off of sampling bottles.

Merritt Health Centre 3451 Voght St
Merritt, BC V1K 1C6
Tuesday 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Princeton Health Centre 98 Ridgewood Dr
Princeton, BC V0X 1W0
Wednesday 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

For more information, please contact your local Interior Health Authority office

Fraser Health Authority

Please send an email to HPLand@fraserhealth.ca. Fraser Health will reach out to the homeowners and provide specific information for drop off and pick up at their local Health Units. Questions may also go to this e-mail address. 

Step 4. Take samples and fill out requisition forms

  • Please see how to submit a water sample to correctly take and transport samples
  • It is critical that samples are taken correctly, transported appropriately and in a timely fashion, and that the requisition form accompanying your samples is filled out correctly so the lab can contact you to provide accurate results.  Your health authority can help you if you have any questions

Step 5. Drop off samples

  • Samples can be dropped off as per instructions under Step 3 above in your respective health authority area

Step 6. Receiving results

  • Testing laboratories will make every effort to contact you directly by phone when there is detectable E. coli. All other reports with non-detectable E. Coli will be sent out to you either from the testing laboratory or through your local health authority. Please note it is the responsibility of the private well owner to decontaminate their well when there is detectable E.coli counts
  • If E. coli is not detected, further testing will not be required for that site. If E. coli is detected, it is recommended to investigate the problem before re-submitting a new sample for testing. Up to one re-sample will be accepted. Testing may be extended if circumstances warrant

Further information on what result mean can be found here:

Step 7. Taking Further Action

  • A well driller or pump installer registered with the Province can be hired by a well owner to inspect and repair/rehabilitate their well. A list of qualified persons is found at: Government of BC: Groundwater Wells and Aquifers
  • For existing wells, a well owner may disinfect their own well if they choose to do so. Proper care for and maintenance of your water supply well, including regularly testing the water quality, can help ensure that you have a safe and sustainable water supply

Further information on taking care of your well can be found at:

More Information