In the country, you have to test the water. Oops!

waterDuring a pleasant Saturday-morning chat with fellow part-time Queensborough residents Jo-Ann and Steve this past weekend, we got a bit of a wake-up call about one of those things you have to do when you have a house in the country. It was: get the water tested.

There is no municipal water supply in Queensborough; every house has a well. As I’ve reported before, when I was growing up at the Manse the house’s shallow dug well was contaminated, and the water was not safe to drink. As a result, through all the 11 years my family lived there, we had to carry our drinking water in buckets from a village pump that was outside the old schoolhouse (now the Queensborough Community Centre; the pump is no longer there).

The Sedgwicks moved away from Queensborough in 1975. The records that Raymond and I were given when we bought the Manse in January 2012 show that a much deeper well was drilled, on a different part of the property, in 1983. (Why couldn’t they have decided to do it a few years earlier?) And the water from that well is, according to tests done not long before our purchase closed, perfectly free of contamination and thus safe to drink.

A good piece of paper to have: the results of a December 2011 test of the well water at the Manse showing it's free of contamination. Unfortunately, we have just found out we should have tested the water at least three times since that test was done!

A good piece of paper to have: the results of a December 2011 test of the well water at the Manse showing it’s free of contamination. Unfortunately, we have just found out we should have tested the water at least three times since then!

I have a vague recollection of having been told when we bought the place that we’d have to get the water tested again from time to time, but, assuming that meant something like “every five years or so,” hadn’t thought about it again in the whole year and a bit that we’ve been the owners. Bad move, apparently! Steve and Jo-Ann told us that one is supposed to have well water tested three times a year, and they were absolutely right: that’s what the Ontario Ministry of the Environment says: “The quality of your well water can change, and changes often aren’t apparent in the taste, smell, or look of your water.”

So! I guess we’d better get our act together. The testing is free; all you have to do is pick up a testing container at the office of the local health unit, fill it up and bring it back. (The health-unit office‘s hours are not remotely convenient for weekend people like us – 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays – but we’ll figure something out.) Apparently results come back quickly.

You’d think that as someone who grew up in rural areas I might have known better about the subject of getting well water tested. Have I become as citified as all that? (Then again, I suspect that in the environmentally cavalier 1960s, the rules on things like water testing were a whole lot looser than they are now.) But anyway, clearly we need to start thinking like rural residents. At least part of the time.

8 thoughts on “In the country, you have to test the water. Oops!

  1. Flashback to nine years at Skinner’s Pond! I tested religiously three times a year and sometimes threw in an extra sample after a very heavy rain (we were down the hill from a farm with livestock). Made easier by the fact that I worked at the health unit in North Bay. As there’s a time element in the health unit’s getting your sample to the lab, I’d suggest you talk to one of the inspectors about your limited time in Queensborough. Samples can (and should) be kept refrigerated until you can deliver them to the HU, but I’m not sure overnight is allowable because of degredation of the little bit of material that’s in the test bottles.

    • Thank you for the advice, Brenda! Good to hear from someone who’s been there, done that. I will give the health unit a call and get the lowdown. Three times a year seemed like such a lot when Jo-Ann and Steve mentioned it, but I guess we’ll have to get used to it. Fortunately there are no livestock anywhere uphill from us! (I think…)

  2. Hey guys, I live right beside the health unit…drop your sample off at Country Treasures on the weekend and I will make sure it gets there on the Monday….Cheers, Maureen

    • Maureen, that is so kind of you! Thank you!! We may very well take you up on that. I swear, people in the Queensborough/Madoc/Tweed area are just the best. Folks are so good about helping each other. If a down side of country living is having to get your water tested a lot, a great big up side is the people – like you! – who will go the extra mile to help friends and neighbours out. Such a revelation when one lives in the big city!

  3. Hmmm…our well was drilled in 1981, two years after the little dam on the Black River broke, causing the water table level [for dug surface wells] to drop too far. Presumably, we tested the water quality then but I don’t recall if it has ever been tested since. No matter, what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, so I’ve heard.

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