Water Testing Q & A

 Water Testing Question and Answer
 

Q. I JUST BOUGHT A PROPERTY, IS MY WATER SAFE TO DRINK?  

A. Private water supplies (water wells and dugouts) are not subject to regulations that all public and semi-public drinking water supplies are required to test for various parameters on a regular basis. There is no guarantee that any untreated water is safe for human consumption. It is the responsibility of the owner/users to have their water supplies tested by a reliable source. 

Q. WHERE CAN I GET MY WATER TESTED? 

A. There are various options available that we consider to be reliable sources for water testing.  

The Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory. 
They perform a wide range of bacteriological and chemical tests on drinking water supplies.

Submit samples to:
Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory
5 Research Drive
Regina, SK   S4S 0A4
If you have specific questions regarding water testing, please call (306) 787-7138.

Water Security Agency
Head Office
111 Fairford Street East
Moose Jaw, SK S6H 7X9

8:00am to 5:00 pm
Monday to Friday

306.694.3900

We have also utilized Wigs Pumps & Waterworks Ltd. in Saskatoon for water sample testing. 
Call 306.652.4276

For more information please call Rich Green at 306.229.8561.  He is a neutral third party that can answer questions from your reports and can assist with many follow up assessments, if needed.   

Q. WHERE CAN I OBTAIN A SAMPLE BOTTLE TO HAVE MY WATER TESTED?

A. To have your drinking water tested for total coliform bacteria and nitrate you must use a special, sterilized container. Water sample containers are  distributed to RM offices and public health offices throughout the province. If you wish to have your water tested for other parameters, see the SaskH2O web site for more information at http://www.saskh2o.ca/.  To ensure your testing results are correct and to prevent sample contamination, it is important to follow proper procedures for collection of water samples to prevent sample contamination. Detailed sampling procedures are printed on the back of requisition forms from . Read the instructions before sample collection.

Q. HOW DO I SUBMIT MY WATER SAMPLES TO THE LAB? 

A. To ensure accurate test results, it is important to follow instructions for submitting water samples. Detailed water sampleinstructions are printed on the back of requisition forms

***Read the instructions before sample submission.*** 

Samples MUST be submitted in insulated coolers with ice packs to ensure samples are cool but not frozen during overnight transportation. Cooler and coolants are returned to submitter as soon as possible, and the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory is responsible for the cost of returning. Use “flip-top” style label with laboratory address on one side, and the submitter address on the other side. The Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory does NOT supply coolers. However, the Lab does pay for costs of returning coolers. 

Q. I DON'T HAVE A COOLER TO USE.  NOW WHAT? 

A. When a sample is dropped off at the lab within 6 hours of collection, a cooler is not required. I was told that my water samples had to arrive at the lab within 48 hours of collection.

Q. WHY ONLY 48 HOURS? 

A. Scientific studies have shown that the numbers of bacteria in water decreases with passing time, especially when the sample temperature is high. Testing your water within 48 hours will greatly reduce the chance of false results.

What tests should I request to confirm that my drinking water is safe? Private water supplies should be tested annually for total coliform bacteria and nitrate. There are many other tests that may be required depending upon the type and location of the water source. For example, dugouts and shallow wells on farms are susceptible to contamination by pesticides. Some groundwater sources contain elevated levels of arsenic.

Q. WHAT ARE TOTAL COLIFORMS? 

A. Total coliforms are a group of bacteria that are used as the principal indicator for the sanitary quality of water. The presence of any coliform bacteria indicates that the water is unsafe for human consumption.

Q. MY WATER SAMPLE TEST SHOWED IT CONTAINED COLIFORM BACTERIA. WHAT CAN I DO TO CORRECT THIS?

A. If your drinking water supply contains coliform bacteria, it must be disinfected prior to consumption. Boiling water for several minutes will kill bacteria present in the water. Using a UV light as part of your treatment system can also be beneficial. If you require specific information on your water supplies, please contact the public health Inspector in your Regional Health Authority.

Q. MY NEIGHBOURS WELL HAS NITRATES. WHAT ARE NITRATE AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? WHAT IS THE ACCEPTABLE CONCENTRATION IN DRINKING WATER?

A. Nitrate is a stable, oxidized form of nitrogen. The sources of nitrates in water include agricultural fertilizers, animal wastes, domestic sewage, decaying matter (old wooden well cribbing, or surface contamination) and natural geological formations (brackish water from a seam containing organic material).

Q. MY REPORT READS, NOT TO BE USED FOR INFANT OR ANIMAL CONSUMPTION DUE TO NITRATES.  WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? 

A. The Canadian Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality has set 45 mg/L as the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC), based primarily on a condition known as "infantile methemoglobinemia". Specifically, nitrate reduces the ability of blood to transport oxygen to body tissues, resulting in cyanosis or "blue baby syndrome." In extreme cases, this condition has been reported to be fatal.

Q. MY WATER CONTAINS HIGH LEVELS OF NITRATE. HOW CAN I REMOVE NITRATE FROM MY DRINKING WATER? 

A. Nitrate can be removed from water by distillation or reverse osmosis filtration. It might be recommended that you use an ion-exchange filters, they have been found to successfully remove significant quantities of nitrate.

Please note: Boiling water will NOT decrease the nitrate concentration in the water. Blending water that has high nitrate levels with water that has lower concentrations is also a common practice to reduce nitrate in drinking water.

Q. MY DRINKING WATER HAS BEEN FOUND TO BE ACCEPTABLE BASED ON TESTS FOR TOTAL COLIFORM BACTERIA AND NITRATE. IS THIS WATER SAFE TO DRINK? 

A. These two tests indicate that the water is safe ONLY with respect to contamination by coliform bacteria and nitrate. It does not indicate anything else regarding the quality or safety of the water supply.

For example, the water sample is found to be acceptable for bacteria and nitrate may contain pesticides or arsenic. It is impractical and expensive to test all private water supplies for all possible contaminants. If a problem is suspected or you have a concern regarding the safety of the water supply, further specific types of testing can be requested. If your contact the public health inspector in your Regional Health Authority for specific adviceregarding your site and specifics. 

Q. I am concerned about the quality of my drinking water. What home water treatment devices should be used? 

A. The type that should be used depends upon several factors including the quality of the water source and what you want to remove from the water, there are many water filtration system types available.
Contact the public health inspector at your Regional Health Authority for specific advice. 

Q. HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HAVE MY WATER TESTED? WHERE DO I SEND THE MONEY? 

A. The cost varies depending upon the type and number of tests being performed.

For example, a drinking water package (Nitrate plus total coliform and E. coli Bacteria) costs $26.25 (5% GST included). Service charges for other tests may be found at the Water Testing Service Charges link provided below or on the SaskH2O web site http://www.health.gov.sk.ca/water-service-charges 

REFERENCES: 

Government of Saskatchewan. Web. Saskatchewan Healthy People, Healthy Province.  Web. 20. Apr. 2013http://www.health.gov.sk.ca/water-testing-common-questions

Sask Water Security Anency. Web. Flood Watch. Web. 20. Apr. 201.  https://www.wsask.ca/

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