Currently, 45% of the private wells in the state, which serve 9% of the population, are considered unsafe for drinking due to bacterial contamination. Also, nearly one in every five private wells contain unsafe levels of nitrite, a common challenge in agricultural states that use heavy levels of fertilizers. Nitrite in water supplies can be life-threatening at certain levels and cause "baby blue syndrome."

The water testing program provides standards for construction of private water wells. Enforcement of construction standards protects area drinking water aquifers from contamination.

The Environmental Health Department administers the Grants-To-Counties program, which included water testing, well plugging, and well rehabilitation. This department offers water testing services free to any private well owner. These water tests are used to determine the level of contaminants in the water sample and to verify that the water from the well is safe to drink. Samples of water from the well site are collected in the county and sent to a certified lab for analysis.

Other services offered are well permits for new well construction and reconstructed wells and water well certification associated with property transfers. On-site review and approval is required for all new well construction. Information about grant assistance with the plugging of abandoned wells is also available.

The Environmental Health Director issues septic and well permits. Septic permits are $200 each and well permits are $150 each. For more information or to make an appointment, call Dan Tilkes at 641-456-4090.