Tillamook County Community Health Centers (TCCHC) is offering free nitrate and total coliform bacteria testing during the month of September to Tillamook County residents who get their water from private wells. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) recommends testing well water for these contaminants every year, because contaminants often have no taste, smell, or odor, and well conditions can change over time. But with no state-accredited water testing labs currently in the county and no legal requirements to test outside of real estate transactions, many well owners don’t test as often as recommended.
More than 1 in 6 people in Tillamook County get their water from a private well. Like public water systems, private wells need to be regularly tested and maintained to make sure the water is safe and clean. But unlike public water systems, where users pay a monthly bill to receive treated water to their homes, private wells aren’t regulated. This means that contamination often goes unnoticed, which can put people at risk for short- and long-term health problems. This is especially true during times of drought, which can lead to decreased quantity and quality of water.
A hot, dry summer and influx of visitors to the coast has led to multiple cities urging residents on public water systems to conserve water. While these restrictions don’t apply to private well users, all water sources are strained when there is less water available, increasing the risk of problems. By offering a free testing program, TCCHC hopes to better understand well water testing and contamination patterns in the county.
This program is part of TCCHC’s ongoing work to understand and address community health needs through public health modernization, a statewide effort to make public health more responsive, data-driven, and community-oriented.
Eligible participants who sign up will be able to pick up free test bottles and instructions for collecting samples from TCCHC’s Environmental Health staff within the Public Health office in Tillamook, which is also where they will drop off collected samples. To sign up for the program, or learn more about private wells, visit tillamookchc.org/wells.
Please note that TCCHC is not providing water treatment, bottled water services, well or septic system repair, or specific advice based on the results of water testing. These tests are being provided for educational purposes only. Information collected in the sign-up form and results from the well water tests cannot be guaranteed to be confidential. If you choose to participate in this program, you assume responsibility for any and all risks associated with your participation.
Many properties with wells also use a septic system, which can contribute to well water contamination in case of a failing or damaged septic system. If you have septic system issues (with or without a private well) and need financial help to repair or replace a failing septic tank or drain field, reach out to Tillamook County Onsite Wastewater for information on how to apply for a 0% interest 30-year deferred payment loan or even possibly a grant to repair or replace a failing system. For more information about this septic system program, please contact Chris Chiola at (503) 842-3409 or email@example.com at the Tillamook County Onsite Wastewater Division.