The Department of Natural Resources is warning owners of private wells to be aware of the potential for water contamination this spring. As warmer weather hits and snow melts, clean drinking water can become a concern. When the ground is still frozen, water that may contain pollutants cannot penetrate the soil, causing it to flow over wells.

Record snowfalls in many states across the country have increased this risk of water contamination among private wells. Low lying areas or areas with lower wells are especially at risk.

“If water should come up over the top of the well, then you get surface water running into a well,” said Ken Bradbury, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Geological Survey, in a Badger Herald article. “That’s how you can get all kinds of contamination.”

Such contaminates in surface water can include certain pathogens, animal feces and waste water from flooded septic systems. These pollutants can include dangerous bacteria and parasites which, if ingested, may lead to illness.

How to Avoid Well Water Contamination

If you are a private well owner, be sure to keep an eye out for changes in your water – specifically changes in smell or color. If your water has a strange odor or appears yellow or brown, have your well tested for nitrate and bacteria levels.

Additionally, well owners who suspect their water is contaminated can boil the water to kill potential bacteria. Boiling water does not, however, eliminate nitrates. Make efforts to use other sources of water for drinking or cooking if you suspect your well is contaminated.

Your state Department of Natural Resources should have more detailed information on how to have well water tested and what to do if you suspect well water contamination.