Home & Garden Maintenance & Repairs

How to Test a Well for Coliform Bacteria in Washington State

    • 1). Learn about the different kinds of coliform bacteria that could be present in well water. Total coliform bacteria includes many coliform species found in the environment and their presence could signal environmental contamination. E. coli are fecal coliform bacteria found in the intestines of all vertebrate species; their presence is a definite sign of fecal contamination. Most E. coli strains are not harmful in and of themselves, but some can cause illness.

    • 2). Find a certified testing lab in your area of Washington state, using information provided by the Washington State Department of Ecology. See Resources.

    • 3). Contact the lab to learn what kinds of tests they offer and how to collect samples. Test fees are usually in the $20 to $25 range as of December, 2010. Most labs will provide sample bottles and instructions on how to collect the samples.

    • 4). Read the results you receive from the lab. Typically, the lab will indicate that levels are either SATISFACTORY or UNSATISFACTORY. If coliform bacteria levels are satisfactory, you don't need to take further action, except to retest from time to time. If the levels are unsatisfactory, however, do not continue to drink the water from your faucet. Either buy bottled water or boil your well water until you can have the well inspected. Contact a well professional in your area or the county environmental health department for information on how to treat your well.

    • 5). Retest your well annually for coliform bacteria.

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