Water Testing (Private Wells)

Water test kits are available for purchase in person Monday through Friday (8:00 a.m.. to 4:30 p.m..) at Winona County's Environmental Services/Household Hazardous Waste building (225 West 2nd Street, Winona).  The kits test for total coliform bacteria and/or anions (nitrate, fluoride, chloride, & sulfate).

Type of Test Kit Fee                             
Coliform Bacteria $32.00
Anions* $32.00
Combination Kit
(Coliform Bacteria and Anions)

*Nitrate, fluoride, chloride and sulfate 
Sorry, cash or check only.  Checks made payable to:  Winona County Auditor/Treasurer

Commonly Asked Questions:
How often should I have my well water tested?

Yearly testing for total coliform bacteria and all anions, especially nitrates, is recommended for private well owners.

What will testing for total coliform bacteria and nitrate-nitrogen tell me?

Testing for total coliform bacteria and nitrate-nitrogen are the basic tests for sanitary quality of drinking water. Coliform bacteria are found naturally in the intestines of warm-blooded animals (including humans), soil, lake and river water. Coliform bacteria are not normally present in groundwater. Although coliform bacteria themselves are harmless, the presence of these bacteria indicates that contamination has occurred and other disease-producing bacteria may be present. Hence, coliform bacteria are referred to as indicator organisms. Nitrate is found in fertilizers and is also formed during the decay of organic matter, such as sewage and animal wastes. The maximum recommended level set by state and federal guidelines for nitrate-nitrogen is 10 mg/L. While not generally harmful to children or adults, water that exceeds 10 mg/L of nitrate-nitrogen is potentially fatal to infants under 6 months of age. This limit is established to prevent the occurrence of methemoglobinemia in infants, also known as blue baby syndrome. Water containing over 10 mg/L should not be used in preparing formula for infants. Water that is elevated in nitrates should not be boiling when preparing formula, as boiling the water actually increases the nitrate level.

What does it mean to have hard water?

Hardness is the soap-consuming property of water. Ever since the use of soap became prevalent, people noticed that, depending on the water source, different amounts of soap were needed to produce suds. Water requiring more soap was called hard water because the suds were hard to produce. In contrast, little soap was required to produce suds in rainwater; therefore, it was soft water.

Hardness is caused primarily by calcium and magnesium (natural components of rock and soil) that are dissolved into the groundwater. Soapsuds cannot be produced in hard water until the dissolved minerals have been combined with the soap. The minerals that combine with soap remain as an insoluble residue - the familiar bathtub ring. In addition, when hard water is heated, it will deposit a hard scale on cookware, plumbing fixtures and the inside of pipes.

There is no evidence that hardness in water has any effect on human health. Rather, its ability to consume soaps and leaves scale on fixtures and appliances are economic and visible concerns. Water softening is the most common form of water treatment for hardness.

What if my water smells, tastes funny, or is a reddish color; is it okay to drink? 

If your water smells like rotten eggs, tastes funny, has a reddish discoloration, or you notice a reddish slime growth on filters or in the toilet tank, you may have iron bacteria. Iron bacteria do not cause disease and do not make the water undrinkable. However, they are a nuisance aesthetically, and if they become too numerous, may cause the well screen, pump inlet or aquifer pores to become plugged. Iron bacteria are difficult to totally eliminate, but can be controlled by routine well disinfection.