Small Drinking Water Systems

Small Drinking Water Systems are business or premise that supply their own water, typically through a private well or cistern, and allow the public access to the water, such as:

  • Restaurants
  • Wineries
  • Hotels / motels
  • Trailer parks
  • Places of worship
  • Recreational facilities
  • Municipal airports and offices
  • Public washrooms

Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency services is required to routinely inspect these systems, respond to adverse water quality incidents and investigate complaints.

Reporting Forms

Record Sheets

Resources

Contact Us

Contact us with any questions at 905-688-8248 ext. 7590 or by email at inspect@niagararegion.ca

Taking a Water Sample

  • Planning
    • Pick up a drinking water sample bottle from your private laboratory
      • Check the bottle to ensure that the seal is intact and lid is not broken
    • Water samples should be taken on the same day they are delivered to the laboratory
      • If unable to take the sample the same day, it must be submitted within 24 hours. Samples greater than 24 hours will not be suitable for testing
  • Taking the Sample
    • Ensure your hands are clean. Good handwashing or the use of alcohol based hand rubs will help prevent contamination of the sample
    • Remove any aerators, screens, or other attachments from the faucet
      • Do not take a sample from an outside faucet or the garden hose
    • Turn on the cold water and let it run for two to three minutes
    • Turn off the water and disinfect the faucet
      • Swab the end of the faucet spout with an alcohol swab (70% isopropyl) or use diluted bleach solution (one part household bleach to 10 parts water) to remove debris or bacteria
    • Turn on the cold water again and let it run for two to three minutes
    • Remove the lid of the sample bottle and fill the bottle
      • Do not touch the inside of the lid, put down the lid, or rinse out the bottle
      • Fill the bottle to the level that is marked and close the lid firmly
    • Complete the submission form. Ensure the form includes your small drinking water system number and emergency contact information
  • Transporting the Sample
    • Water samples should be kept refrigerated (not frozen)
      • Transport the sample in a cooler with ice packs
  • Adverse Water Quality Incidents
    • An adverse water quality incident is when a drinking water sample shows high levels of bacterial (or chemical) contamination. The presence of these bacteria is an indication of the entry of surface water or fecal contamination. Bacterial contamination may be a health risk to the users of your small drinking water system.
    • The laboratory will contact the owner/operator of the system and Public Health. You are required to contact Public Health regarding any adverse results. A public health inspector will provide direction on corrective actions.

Disinfect a System

When water sample results show the presence of bacteria (Total Coliforms and/or E. coli), it is necessary to disinfect the well/cistern and resample. These pathogens may have been introduced during maintenance, alterations, repairs, or they may indicate that surface water is entering the well/cistern.

A disinfection process is used to inactivate these bacteria. If repeat samples continue to show contamination, a treatment system may be required or the current treatment system is not working properly.

Disinfecting a Cistern

  • Step 1: Inspect your Cistern
    • Inspect the cistern for potential contamination sources nearby (such as manure or malfunction septic system). Ensure any eaves troughs are not connected to the cistern
    • Make sure the cistern lid and cover are in good repair. If the lid is damaged or cracked, surface water and other foreign material (such as insects) can enter and contaminate the water inside
    • The cistern lid needs to be elevated and the ground around the cistern must be sloped away to prevent surface water from pooling. Grass must be cut short and any other vegetation removed
    • Ensure you are obtaining water from an inspected water hauler
    • Cisterns should be completely cleaned out and disinfected on a biannual basis
  • Step 2: Disinfect the Well
    • Determine the amount of chlorine required to reach two mg/L (ppm)
      • 150 ml (5 oz) of household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) per 1000 gallons of water or 40 ml (1.5 oz) per 1000 L
      • Only NSF certified chlorine or unscented household bleach/sodium hypochlorite should be used
    • Mix the bleach with water in a large clean container and pour into the cistern
    • Follow manufactures instructions on bypassing or disconnecting any treatment equipment
    • Run each water tap (one at a time) until a chlorine odour is noticed. This includes flushing all toilets and other water connections. If no odour is noticed, add a little more bleach to the cistern. If available, use a free available chlorine test kit to confirm concentration
    • Let stand overnight. A minimum of 12 hours contact time is required
  • Step 3: Resample
    • Flush the water lines for at least two to three minutes. Longer flushing times may be required for larger facilities
    • Wait 48 hours and then resample
    • Two consecutive samples, a minimum of 24 hours apart, may be required before the water supply is considered safe to use
  • Step 4: Continued Adverse Results
    • If the first step is not effective in eliminating the bacteria, the cistern may need to be cleaned and inspected by a professional company or a treatment system many need to be installed

How to Disinfect a Well

  • Step 1: Inspect your Well
    • Inspect for potential contamination sources close to the well (e.g. manure or malfunctioning septic system). Verify that the sewage system, such as a septic tank system, works properly and has been properly maintained (pumped regularly).
    • The ground around the well casing must be appropriately sloped (mounded) to prevent surface water from pooling. Ensure all surface water, like water from downspouts, is directed away from the well casing.
    • Make sure the well cap or cover is in good repair and securely in place. If the cap or cover is damaged, cracked, or allows insects to enter, it must be replaced.
    • Examine the well casing. There should be no gaps between the casing, ground, and surface seal. The casing should protrude 40 cm above grade and be clear or vegetation. Look inside the well for signs of water seepage at or below joints, rust stains, or cracks in the casing. If you find any problems, contact a licensed well driller.
    • Do not decorate around the well casing as it can provide shelter for rodents, reptiles, and other wildlife and inhibits regular visual inspection.
  • Step 2: Disinfect the well
    • Determine the amount of chlorine required
      • Well disinfection requires between 50 – 200 mg/L (ppm) of chlorine
        • Drilled well – 150 ml (5 oz) of bleach for every 7.5 m (25 ft) of well depth
        • Dug well – 1 L (1 quart) bleach for every 1.5 m (5 ft) of well depth
      • Public Health Ontario has a well disinfection calculator to help determine the amount of chlorine required
      • Only NSF certified chlorine or unscented household bleach/sodium hypochlorite should be used
      • Mix the chlorine required to disinfect the well in 25 L (5 gallons) of water. Note: the well calculator accounts for the extra 25 L of water used for mixing
    • Follow manufactures instructions on bypassing or disconnecting any treatment equipment
    • Pour the disinfectant down your well
    • Turn on each tap in the facility until a strong chlorine odour is detected then shut off the tap. Remember to flush toilets or other fixtures as well. Do not use any water in the facility for 12 – 24 hours to allow the chlorinated water to disinfect the system
  • Step 3: Resample
    • Flush the water lines for at least two to three minutes to remove the chlorine. Longer flushing times may be required for larger facilities.
    • An outside hose should be used to prevent chlorinated water from going to the septic system
    • Wait 48 hours and then resample
    • Two consecutive samples, a minimum of 24 hours apart, may be required before the water supply is considered safe to use
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