The Surface and Drinking Water Program provides a number of opportunities for free testing of drinking water for various contaminants. Read about opportunities you might be eligible for. The program also monitors surface water conditions to protect river users and SJBPH operates a Water Laboratory for public and private water sources to test for bacteria and basic chemistry at cost.
Private wells and public water systems are eligible for free testing for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a family of chemicals found in firefighting foam and other sources. PFAS compounds are sometimes known as "forever chemicals" because they do not easily break down in the environment or the human body, so they accumulate over time. In certain high-risk areas in Colorado, private wells and public water systems have been found to have highly elevated levels of PFAS compounds. Consumption of unsafe levels of some PFAS chemicals is associated with certain cancers, lower infant birth weights, and possibly serious complications for pregnant people. Study of these health effects is ongoing.
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has awarded San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) a grant to have willing well owners in our jurisdictions to have their wells tested for PFAS at no cost to the owner. If you are interested in this free opportunity to have your well tested for PFAS please email us or call 970-335-2060 for more information.
For information about PFAS and your health, get more information on CDPHE's site.
About Private Well Testing
The Water Quality Interpretation Tool easily checks water quality testing results against state and national standards
Because of our local geology, a small but significant percentage of wells throughout La Plata and Archuleta Counties have issues with contamination from metals and other minerals. Because the federal Safe Drinking Water Act does not apply to private wells, the responsibility of ensuring that water from a private well is safe is the responsibility of the well owner.
San Juan Basin Public Health recommends, as does the State of Colorado, that every private well used for drinking water be tested once per year by a certified laboratory. Most of these tests involve the well user collecting a sample at a non-aerated, non-swiveling tap (like a bathtub) in lab-provided containers and mailing them to a laboratory for testing.
SJBPH also recommends that wells with no history of testing, and wells that are very old, be inspected visually to ensure that construction is sound and that the surface around the well is kept clear of possible contaminating substances.
There is no "standard suite" of potential contaminants nor "standard annual test" for drinking water wells. Many laboratories offer a package that they recommend for annual testing, but these may differ from company to company. At a minimum, SJBPH recommends that your annual test order include nitrate, nitrite, and coliform bacteria testing. You should also test for anything that shows up as elevated in any tests performed historically.
If you have never tested your well before, or if its history is unclear, SJBPH recommends testing for the above substances plus arsenic, lead, fluoride, hardness, iron, manganese, pH, and total dissolved solids. In certain areas of southwest Colorado, including the Pine River Valley and the mesa tops between Durango and Bayfield, it may be a good idea to test for fluoride in your well annually.
Click "Analyte/Compound Name" to filter this list to include only the laboratories certified to test for the substance you are interested in.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), San Juan Basin Public Health and the United States Geological Survey conduct monitoring of the Animas River at multiple locations as needed to ensure public safety. This includes real-time monitoring of river conditions, regular sample collection at multiple locations throughout the year, and responding to changes in river water quality to protect agriculture, municipal use, and recreation. While other rivers in our counties do not have real-time water quality monitoring, CDPHE collects samples regularly on all major rivers in Colorado, and SJBPH will respond to reported spills and emergencies as needed.
To report a spill, whether or not it reaches a major waterway: call 877-518-5608, available 24 hours a day.
SJBPH reminds river users:
- It is always good public health practice to wash with soap and water after exposure to untreated river water or sediment.
- Closely supervise your children to ensure they don't ingest large amounts of river water or sediment.
- Be sure to always properly treat water from any river or stream before using it for consumption.