Safeguarding your drinking water: What you can do
Wisconsin residents can take a number of steps to make sure their drinking water is safe. Here are a few suggestions:
● If you live in one of the 940,000 households in Wisconsin that rely on a private well, have your water tested or test it yourself. The state Department of Natural Resources recommends getting your well tested once a year for coliform bacteria and any time you notice a change in how your water looks, smells or tastes. Check with your county health department on what contaminants may be found in your area and for which you might also want to test.
● You can get more information on testing from the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, including details on how to obtain testing kits and the costs of various tests. The test for coliform bacteria, for example, costs $29, as do the tests for lead and nitrate.
● For those using municipal water, get the consumer confidence report from your local water utility. Or you can access the reports on the DNR’s database of public water systems. Also, find out if your utility disinfects for viruses or uses corrosion control to help keep lead out of pipes.
● If your home was built before 1984, consider having it assessed for lead in the water. While pre-1950 homes often have lead service lines, some homes built before 1984 may have lead solder on the pipes or fixtures that contain lead. Consult the DNR website for safer ways to use water that may contain lead.
● Consider a filter for your water. But make sure that the filter you choose is effective for removing the specific contaminants that are in your water. The University of Wisconsin-Extension website has advice on which to choose.
— Ron Seely, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.