Collecting a Water Sample

Collecting a Water Sample

Collecting a Water Sample

Thank you for purchasing a well water test kit from the Mason County Health Department. The $20.00 fee covers the purchase of the sample bottle and the analytical test run by the state lab.

All samples must be taken on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday and mailed by UPS for same day pick up. Samples should reach the laboratory no later than Thursday. Samples received more than 30 hours after being collected are too old for testing and will be discarded.

Follow these instructions to ensure that samples are free of outside contamination and are representative of well water at the time of sampling:

  • Select a sampling point as close to the water supply source as possible. Do not collect from garden hoses, dirty faucets, or swing faucets where foreign material may contaminate the sample. Remove faucet screens or aerators before sampling.
  • Wash your hands before sample collection.
  • Open cold water tap and allow water to run full flow until pump starts and runs for several minutes.
  • Carefully unscrew the cap of the bottle, holding both cap and bottle in such a way that inside edges and threads are not touched. Do not rinse the bottle or touch the rim of the bottle or the inside of the cap with your fingers or with the spout of the faucet. Fill the bottle to the fill line and replace cap.
  • Fill out the report form enclosed with the bottle, making sure the date of collection, sampling point, time, and return address are completed.
  • Attach the mailing label, and mail the water sample the same day that they sample was collected.

Allow a week to ten days for the results to be returned to the Health Department. A letter will be sent to the homeowner with the results.

The kit contains one water bottle for a colifrom/E.coli sample. Testing for coliform bacteria will reveal whether your water supply may be contaminated with infectious organisms, but it will not provide a direct measure of pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria. Specific disease-producing organisms present in the water are not easily identified, and testing for these organisms in the laboratory is complex and time-consuming. Coliform bacteria, on the other hand, can be easily identified in the laboratory and are used as an indicator of the bacteriological quality of water.

Some members of the coliform indicator group occur naturally in the intestines of humans as well as other warm-blooded animals and are discharged in great numbers in human and animal waste. Others occur naturally in surface water of varying quality and in topsoil. A positive analysis for coliform bacteria indicated that the well sample may have been contaminated by surface water or fecal material. This may suggest that the water well may not be properly constructed to protect it from sources of bacteriological contamination. Negative results indicate there was no contamination at the time of sampling.

The Illinois Department of Public Health laboratories no longer offer a nitrate test. If you desire to have your water tested for nitrates (or any other possible contaminant other than coliform/E.coli), please contact the Mason County Health Department, and we can provide you with a list of private laboratories in Illinois to contact for a well sample test kit.

High levels of Nitrogen, above 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l), may cause illness in infants 6 mouths of age or younger. Nitrates found in ground water are usually produced by agricultural fertilizers, livestock wastes or septic systems. If you have any questions about nitrates in drinking water, please contact the Mason County Health Department.

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