On-Site Drinking Water Well Program
BEDHD's On-Site Drinking Water Well Program is meant to help residents and businesses in the district to have safe and healthy drinking water. On-site wells provide drinking water to many families and businesses in our communities. Most households and businesses that aren’t connected to city water get their water from wells that are right on their properties.
What Is a Well?
A well is a hole drilled in the ground to an area that holds water. A pipe and a pump pull water out of the ground, and a screen filters out particles—like tiny rocks—that no one wants to drink. Wells come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the ground the well is drilled into and how much water is being pumped out.
The water in wells come from underground and is called groundwater. Groundwater comes mostly from rain and snow trickling down through rocks and soil. This water collects in the tiny spaces between soil and rock particles. When all of those spaces are filled up with water, an aquifer is formed. Wells draw their water from aquifers.
On-site wells that serve a single-family residence are called residential wells. BEDHD regulates all residential wells.
Public Water Supplies and Type II Wells
Type I—Community Water Supply
A Public Water Supply (PWS) that provides year-round service to not fewer than 15 living units or which regularly provides year-round service to not fewer than 25 residents.
Type II—Non-Community Water Supply
A Public Water Supply (PWS) that is not a community supply, but that has not fewer than 15 service connections or that serves not fewer than 25 individuals on an average daily basis for not less than 60 days per year. These wells are further classified based on usage.
- Nontransient: A Type II supply that serves not fewer than 25 of the same persons on an average daily basis for more than 6 months per year. This definition includes water supplies in places of employment, schools, and day-care centers.
- Transient: A Type II supply that serves 25 or more different individuals a day at least 60 days of the year (or 15 or more service connections). Examples include motels, churches, golf courses, restaurants, parks & highway rest areas.
All other Public Water Supplies (PWSs) not meeting the definition of Type I or Type II.
Before a resident or business installs a well, BEDHD must evaluate the site and issue a permit, as well as do a final review once the well is installed.
If a land parcel has not had a drinking water well previously installed and does not have municipal sewer available, a site visit is the first step in the process of getting a well installed. After an application has been submitted, a sanitarian will evaluate the proposed site to determine the best location for the well.
If there is an existing well, the old well must be plugged (see "Plugging and Abandoned Well" below).
To obtain an application for a new or replacement well, visit our "Forms" to the right.
The next step in the process is to apply for a well permit. Once the application has been submitted and the appropriate fee is paid, the assigned sanitarian will do a complete site and file review so that a site specific permit can be issued.
After drilling the well, the well driller must do the following:
- Chlorinate (sanitize) the well.
- Advise the well owner of the sampling requirements.
- Fill out and submit a water well record (well log) to the well owner and BEDHD, as well as maintain a copy for his/her records.
- Construct the well system in accordance with state and local requirements.
After the well is drilled, the well owner must do the following:
- Contact BEDHD and arrange for a final inspection of the water well and pressure tank.
- Following the well chlorination by the well driller, the homeowner must flush the water supply to remove the chlorine so that a water sample can be collected. (Consult with your well driller for proper chlorination procedures.)
- Collect and submit a water sample to be tested for coliform bacteria and partial chemical analysis (this include nitrate, nitrite, sulfate, hardness, fluoride, sodium, chloride, and iron levels). Water sample bottles are available at BEDHD. (See below for sampling instructions.)
To obtain a well permit, visit our "Forms" to the right.
Final inspections are performed on newly installed wells after BEDHD is notified by the owner or contractor that the well has been completed. A sanitarian will visit the site and inspect the well, ensuring that it was installed according to the requirements that were indicated on the permit. Following the final inspection, the sanitarian will draw up a final report, including a site plan for future identification.
Further Requirements for Type II Wells
BEDHD must conduct a sanitary survey inspection once every five years for Type II wells. The purpose of the surveys is:
- To determine if your water supply system currently meets applicable state drinking water standards.
- To determine if your water supply system meets the minimum construction and operational standards specified in Act 399 and to require corrections where necessary.
- To establish the water quality monitoring frequencies necessary to achieve compliance with Act 399.
If you have municipal water (pay a water bill) and want to see its sample results, contact your local village, township, or city government.
There are two main things to look for when sampling water: the presence or absence of coliform bacteria and the level of nitrate in the water:
- Coliform bacteria are commonly found in soils, on vegetation, and in surface water, as well as in the intestines of mammals. Bacteria washed into the ground by rainfall or snowmelt are usually filtered out as water seeps through the soil. Properly constructed water wells do not typically harbor coliform bacteria and coliform bacteria do not occur naturally in Michigan aquifers. However, they can be introduced into a well during construction and can remain if the water system is not thoroughly disinfected.
- Nitrate Nitrate can occur naturally in surface and groundwater, but high levels of nitrate in well water can cause health problems. High levels often result from improper well construction, well location, overuse of chemical fertilizers, or improper disposal of human and animal waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a maximum contaminant level for nitrate (as nitrogen) at 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 10 parts per million (ppm).
Groundwater can also be contaminated when any man-made products, such as gasoline, oil, road salts, and chemicals, get into the groundwater and cause it to become unsafe and unfit for human use. Some of the major sources of these products are storage tanks, sewage systems, hazardous waste sites, landfills, and the widespread use of road salts and chemicals. An important fact to remember is that water is part of a cycle, and that any chemical released into the air also has the potential to get into the groundwater. Well sampling is one way to help ensure that your well water is safe (although it doesn't test for all chemicals; contact Environmental Health for more information).
Residential wells and Type II wells have different sampling requirements, as described below.
Residential Well Testing Requirements
Residential wells must be sampled after they are drilled and before BEDHD issues final approval. Residents may also wish to sample their well water in the following circumstances:
- A sudden change occurs in your water’s taste, appearance, or odor.
- The water turns cloudy after a rainfall or the top of the well was flooded.
- You suspect your well has been contaminated by sewage or other potential source of contamination that is within 50 feet of a well.
- Family members are experiencing unexplained flu-like symptoms.
- If nitrate contamination is known to the area, or a sample indicates nitrate levels approaching 10 mg/L, a minimum of annual sampling is recommended.
Type II Well Testing Requirements
To learn about Type II well testing requirements, please call Environmental Health.
How to Sample Water
For proper sampling procedures, see our "Homeowner's Guide to Water Sampling."
Sampling Results—High Nitrate
If a well sample has nitrates above 10 mg/L, it is recommended that another source of drinking water be used, where possible, and that bottled water be used to make infant formula. Private well owners with excessive nitrate should contact Environmental Health for further consultation on reducing nitrate levels.
Although there are treatment devices that can remove nitrate from drinking water, this equipment requires frequent, careful maintenance and sampling to operate effectively. Improperly installed, operated, or maintained equipment can result in nitrate passing through the treatment process. If a nitrate removal system is to be used, one with National Sanitation Foundation or equivalent certification should be selected. Boiling water will not remove nitrate and can concentrate it. If nitrate contamination is known to the area, or a sample indicates nitrate levels approaching 10 mg/L, a minimum of annual sampling is recommended.
There is no better time than right now to make sure the water you and your family are drinking and using is safe and clean. Taking good care of your well can help retain the value of the well when you go to sell your home. There are several important things that homeowners can do to help keep their well safe and properly maintained:
Protect Your Well from Damage
- Check the well cap on top of the well casing to ensure it is in good condition.
- Take care when working or mowing around your well. A damaged casing could negatively affect the sanitary protection of your well.
Protect Your Well from Contaminants
- Store hazardous chemicals, such as paint, pesticides, and motor oil at least 50 feet from your well.
- Maintain a “clean” zone of at least 50 feet between your well and any kennels or livestock operations.
Do It Yourself or Call a Professional?
- An annual well maintenance check, including a bacterial test, is recommended. Home owners can perform this test (see above for sampling instructions)
- Drinking water should be professionally checked any time there is a change in taste, odor, or appearance, or when the well system is serviced.
Know the Area near the Well
- When landscaping, keep the top of your well at least one foot above the ground. Slope the ground away from your well for proper drainage.
- Always maintain proper space between your well and buildings, sewage systems or chemicals.
- Don’t pile snow, leaves, or other materials around your well.
- When your well has come to the end of its serviceable life have a qualified water well contractor decommission it after constructing your new system.
- Keep your well records in a safe place. These include the well log, water sample results, and any water well system maintenance reports.
Also see the Septic and Well Water Maintenance Fact Sheets.
Why Should I Be Concerned?
Surface waters are susceptible to many sources of contamination. This is particularly true during a flood event where sewage runoff and overflow from lakes, rivers, and streams may be carrying bacteria such as E. coli and cholera, protozoa such as Giardia, and viruses such as hepatitis. If surface water enters your well, it may contaminate the water that you rely on for drinking, cooking, washing, and bathing.
Is the Water Safe to Drink after the Flooding Is Gone?
If your well has been flooded, the water is not safe to drink. You must disinfect the well (contact a registered well driller or licensed well pump installer for proper chlorination) and contact BEDHD for information on how to sample your water and where to take the sample for bacteriological testing. Note that although chlorination is effective against microorganisms, it will not remove chemical contamination that may have entered your well. The only way to verify that the water is safe to drink is to have it tested.
What Should I Do to Protect My Family from Contaminated Well Water?
In general, if flood waters have reached your well, if you notice any change in the appearance or taste of your water, or if you are unsure about the impact of flooding on the water quality in your area, you should boil all of the water you use for drinking, making beverages, cooking, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and washing areas of the skin that have been cut or injured. The water should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute and then cooled as necessary. Bottled water may also be used for all of these purposes. Remember, the only way to verify that the water is safe to drink is to have it tested.
Plugging an Abandoned Well
It is not uncommon for wells to quit functioning or to fail to produce water after a certain period of time. In these cases, a replacement well may need to be drilled. If this happens, the old well needs to be properly abandoned (plugged) so that contaminants can't enter the aquifer via the old well. Plugging of an abandoned well must be done in accordance with state and local requirements and performed ONLY by a licensed well driller. After the well is plugged, an abandoned well record will be provided to the well owner and sent to the health department for review.
Complaint investigation is one part of On-Site Drinking Water Well Program. Residents within the district can file a written request to BEDHD regarding water supply problem or other potential health hazard. Once BEDHD receives the request for investigation, a sanitarian will investigate the complaint and, if warranted, require that corrections be made to remedy the situation. Visit our "Complaints" webpage.