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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: September 23, 2016


DOVER, DE (September 23, 2016) - Is the drinking water in your private well free from harmful nitrates and bacteria? If you own a private well, the Division of Public Health (DPH) reminds you to test your drinking water every year. About 16 percent of Delaware residents own private wells which are not managed through water companies and so not subject to state or federal rules on water testing.

Nitrates may harm unborn children and infants younger than six months by reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity in their blood, causing the skin to appear blue or gray. If coliform bacteria are found, disease-causing organisms may be in the water, and feces or sewage waste contamination may be the cause. Disease-causing organisms in drinking water can cause diarrhea, vomiting, dysentery, polio, and hepatitis. Infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who are immune-compromised are at the greatest risk of becoming ill from poor water conditions.

Well owners should test their well water more frequently if:

To test private drinking water quality, well owners may purchase a $4 test kit from the Delaware Public Health Laboratory (DPHL) or DPH's Environmental Health Field Services offices in each county. The test kit contains two bottles: one to test for bacteria and one to test for these chemicals: nitrate, nitrite, iron, fluoride, alkalinity, pH, chloride, sulfate, sodium, and hardness. Follow instructions precisely and return both water samples to the same locations.

Well owners can purchase test kits with cash or check, weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at:

For more extensive private well water testing, well owners can seek out private companies that are certified to test drinking water quality. For a list of certified laboratories, call the Office of Drinking Water at 302-741-8630. The Delaware Public Health Laboratory sends results of bacterial test kits back in one week and chemical results back in three weeks. Homeowners receive the results by mail. If test results show elevated levels of bacteria or chemicals, DPHL may advise homeowners to re-test, or to temporarily boil their water or use bottled water.

Eighty-two percent of Delawareans get their water from a community water system like a water company, city or town system, or shared well (not your own private well). The Office of Drinking Water regulates those systems, which are tested regularly and extensively. To view public water supply system reports, visit the Delaware Drinking Water Watch website: https://drinkingwater.dhss.delaware.gov/

For more detailed information about safe drinking water, contact ODW at 302-741-8630 or http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/hsp/odw.html, or call the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline: 1-800-426-4791.

Well owners who are concerned that there may be a problem with their well should contact a licensed water well contractor driller, or a licensed pump installer to repair or replace parts of their drinking water system. For more information, contact the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Water Supply Section at 302-739-9945 or http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/wr/Services/Pages/WaterSupply.aspx.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit delawarerelay.com

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.