The Surface and Drinking Water Program provides surveillance of ground water and surface water conditions in La Plata County and San Juan County.
SJBPH is underway performing free water quality testing for residents of the Animas Valley who use a private well as their primary source of drinking water. This limited-availability testing includes testing for metals, nitrates, bacteria, and other possible contamination. If you live in the Animas Valley and use a private well, contact us for more information.
About Private Well Testing
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 its 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.
An interactive list of certified laboratories can be found at https://www.colorado.gov/cdphe/dwlabs. Click “Analyte/Compound Name” to filter this list to include only the laboratories certified to test for the substance you are interested in.
Information and data on the health of the Animas River – Gold King Mine 3 Year Anniversary
The following links present information and data on the health of the Animas River 3 years out from the Gold King Mine spill:
- This slideshow produced by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment summarizes the creation, funding, methods and results of this innovative three-year study. The slideshow compares the water quality data collected at each study site to the state’s water quality standards that apply to that segment of the river system.
- This document includes a full sampling data set of Gold King Mine Spill Monitoring Results
- Real-time data will continue to be collected through at least 2020 at five sites between Silverton and Durango. Those data are available 24/7 at https://co.water.usgs.gov/infodata/Animas/index.html
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.