Potable Water/Wells

Overview/General Information

The general goal of the Private Water Program is to protect the public health by assuring private water wells and pumps are installed to provide safe drinking water through the administration and enforcement of the Water Well and Pump Installation Contractor’s Licensing Act, Water Well Construction Code Law, and the Water Well Pump Installation Code Law.

BCHD achieves these program goals by issuing water well construction and modification permits, well sealing permits, inspecting new water well construction, investigating complaints regarding private and semi-private water supplies, conducting field evaluations, and performing other investigations such as sanitary water supply surveys for real estate property transfer inspections.

Well Permits And Fees

Fees are paid for at the time of application/plan submittal. For new construction, an approved site plan is on file at the Health Dept. This site plan designates a pre-approved well area and well drillers only need to turn in their permit application and fee to obtain the permit for new construction. For replacement wells, a plan showing the proposed well placement and meeting all other criteria as set forth in the Illinois Water Well Construction Code Sec. 920.130 must be submitted along with the well application and fee. A permit to construct, seal, deepen, or modify a water well must be obtained from Boone County Department of Public Health prior to commencement of work. Once the permit has been issued, Boone County Department of Public Health must be notified 48 hours prior to commencement of work.

To obtain the Illinois State Well Permit Application form and the Illinois Water Well Construction Report go to the IDPH web site: www.dph.illinois.gov, then scroll down to "forms" for the link to this form.

To obtain the Boone County Department of Public Health application for permit to modify an existing well, click here.

Well Sealing

The Illinois Water Well Construction Code, Section 920.120 requires that the owner of a water well, boring, or monitoring well shall assure that such well is sealed within 30 days after it is abandoned and when the well is no longer used to supply water or is in such a state of disrepair that the well or boring has the potential for transmitting contaminants into an aquifer or otherwise threatens the public health or safety. A permit must be obtained from Boone County Department of Public Health to seal a water well or monitoring well.  Water wells shall be sealed by a licensed water well driller pursuant to the Water Well and Pump Installation Contractor’s License Act. An individual who is not so licensed may seal a well, provided the well is located on land which is owned or leased by such individual and is used by such individual for farming purposes or is such individual’s place of abode and provided a request and permit application are submitted to our office prior to the commencement of sealing indicating how the water well or monitoring well is to be sealed and the materials to be used.  Work may not commence until the request has been approved and the permit is issued.  Note: all homeowner well sealings are required to be inspected by the Boone County Department of Public Health. You must call to schedule an inspection with our office. 

You may acquire the State Water Well Sealing Form at the following site: www.dph.illinois.gov, then scroll down to "forms" for the link to this form.

To download the Property Owner Well Sealing Request form, click here. This form cannot be submitted electronically via e-mail. It must be printed and submitted to our office.

Well Sampling

NEW WELLS: Illinois Department of Public Health requires that all new wells be tested to assure the water supply is safe. In Boone County, the plumbing inspector tags faucets reminding new homeowners to call Boone County Department of Public Health prior to consumption of the well water. Also, letters are sent to new homeowners when the well driller sends his Construction Report to the Health Department and again when the Health Dept receives an Occupancy Permit. An appointment is made with the new homeowner and education is offered regarding their well and septic. The new homeowner is given copies of their septic layout and well construction report. A water analysis is sent to the new homeowner and if it is satisfactory they may consume their well water. If the analysis is unsatisfactory, a chlorination procedure is sent to the homeowner and the homeowner must retest until their well water is satisfactory.  A fee applies for retesting.

PRIVATE WATER WELL SAMPLING: The Illinois Department of Public Health recommends that a water sample be taken annually or anytime the well has undergone repairs to assure that the water source remains free of bacterial contamination. Bacteria and parasites that cause illness can enter a well in many ways. Whether the contamination comes from the materials and tools used in the well’s construction, from septic failures near the well or from feedlot runoff, the bacteria and parasites must be destroyed to ensure safe water.

Customers are advised to pick up a sterile bottle and testing instructions at the Boone County Health Department. Different bottles/fees and the dates for sampling are available at the time you stop in for the instructions. Following is a list of water tests available at Boone County Department of Public Health. The standard test includes Coliform Bacteria and Nitrates. Also, you may test for Iron, Hardness, Chloride, pH, Specific Conductivity, Lead (special bottle/instructions needed for lead). A special appointment is needed for surface water sampling (i.e. for a pond/stream). If you have any questions regarding your well or well water quality, please call the Environmental Division of Boone County Health Department. (815-544-2951 ext 2).

Fluoride testing is not currently offered through the Boone County Health Department.  However, for homes with children, the water supply may be tested for free through an Illinois Department of Public Health program.  Call them at 217-782-3300 to confirm eligibility and make testing arrangements.

To download an educational brochure on drinking water, including Coliform Bacteria, Nitrate, Iron, Hardness, Sulfates, Fluoride, Chloride, pH, Conductivity, Lead, and Water Odors, click here.

IF YOUR SAMPLE IS POSITIVE FOR COLIFORM BACTERIA -POSSIBLE CHLORINATION OF WELL WATER: If your well water tests positive for coliform bacteria, it is considered unsafe to drink.  It is advisable to drink bottled water or bring the water to a rolling boil for three minutes before using it for cooking or drinking until satisfactory water sample results are obtained. 

The presence of coliform bacteria may be due to the well and lines being inactive for a period of time, improper sampling protocol, insufficient chlorination or not chlorinating after a plumbing activity, a deficiency in the well or well head construction, or some other unknown condition.  A well contaminated with bacteria could compromise the aquifer which also serves neighboring wells, therefore making it a public health issue.

If you are confident that sampling technique did not contaminate the sample, you should evaluate your well head for proper location and construction (see below to download the Well Head Self-Inspection Checklist).  If the well head is properly located and constructed, or after you have addressed any construction deficiencies, you must either resample, or chlorinate and then resample.

Chlorination can be done by the property owner who lives onsite or an Illinois licensed well driller or well pump installer (see below to download the Well Chlorination Procedure).  A minimum ten day wait period after the chlorine has been flushed from the well must be observed before a resample may be submitted.  The wait period allows the bacteria to re-establish and be found in the resample if the source has not been addressed by the chlorination or the self-inspection.  Sterile containers and procedures for testing can be obtained from the Boone County Health Department; call ahead for water testing dates and fees. 

To download the Well Head Self-Inspection Checklist, click here.

To download the Well Chlorination Procedure, click here.

Well Pits

The Illinois Water Well Construction Code prohibits constructing new wells in pits. Many existing wells, however, are located in pits. These wells and pits should be examined closely to determine if they meet the following requirements:

  1. The well pit is structurally sound and watertight.
  2. The well casing extends at least 12” above the pit or basement floor.
  3. The well has a well seal to prevent contaminants from entering the well.
  4. The well pit has a watertight manhole and cover.

If any of these requirements is not met, the well pit is not compliant with State Code and may present a (public) health threat. If a pit floods, the wellhead may become submerged and the well could become contaminated.

If the well pit and wellhead are in good condition, check them regularly to make sure the pit is free of debris and is not wet or flooded.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I go for more educational information to learn how to protect my well and drinking water?
Please click here to see the brochure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency & the Illinois State Water Survey regarding the online education class they offer, or visit their website at www.privatewellclass.org.
How do I know if my well water is safe to drink?
Have your water tested for the presence of coliform bacteria and nitrates.  The standard for coliform bacteria in well water is zero.  High quality drinking water will also have zero or low levels of non-coliform (“atypical”) bacteria.  
The State standard for nitrate is 10 milligrams per liter (10 mg/l) as N (nitrogen).  Levels higher than this may be unsafe for pregnant and nursing women and children under 6 months old.
What are contaminants?
Contaminants include metals, chemicals, bacteria, parasites, other micro-organisms and solids, such as sand, that may be found in well water.  Not all contaminants pose a health risk.  Many contaminants are naturally occurring and are acceptable at low levels.  The EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs or primary standards) protect public health by limiting the levels of contaminants in drinking water.  For more information, visit the EPA website at https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations.
How do contaminants get into my well?
Contaminants can enter a well through an opening in the well cap, a crack in the well casing, through the groundwater, or by back-siphoning from plumbing fixtures.  If you notice any damage to the casing, cap or electrical conduit, get it repaired as soon as possible.  Make sure that all plumbing fixtures, drains, and hoses are installed and maintained correctly to prevent back-siphoning of water into the potable water system.  Geologic formations and direction of groundwater flow also influence the possibilities of contamination being transmitted into the well water from a particular source. 
Contamination of a well can also occur during well construction or when a well is serviced.  Any time a well is opened for service it should be chlorinated to prevent bacterial contamination.
How do I dispose of old or unused medications to keep them out of the water supply?
Don't flush old or unused medications.  This puts them directly into the water supply (city water and private well water).  See our flyer below for a better disposal method.  Also see the link below to the Environmental Protection Agency for a diagram of water contaminants and how they enter our water supply.
Disposal of Old or Unused Medications
EPA Diagram of Water Contaminants
Where do nitrates come from?
Sources of nitrogen and nitrates may include runoff or seepage from fertilized agricultural lands, municipal and industrial waste water, refuse dumps, animal feed lots, septic tanks and private sewage disposal systems, urban drainage, and decaying plant debris.  Soil characteristics also influence the movement of nitrates into the groundwater.  For more information on nitrates in drinking water, visit the following site:  www.dph.illinois.gov, then scroll down to "Environmental Health Fact Sheets".
How can I get rid of the nitrates in my well water?
Boiling does not remove nitrates – it makes the concentration higher.  Reverse osmosis treatment units, installed in the home, may reduce the level of nitrates in well water.
How can I disguise or landscape around my well?
You should not bury your well.  The Illinois Water Well Construction Code requires 8” of clearance between the top of ground level and the well cap.  This should be accomplished without creating a bowl or depression around the well.  The area immediately around the well needs to be kept open and free of litter, debris, and plants.  Flower beds and shrubbery near the well should still allow easy access to the well for maintenance and should also allow enough room for the well to be ventilate properly.  If you put a decorative item such as a wooden wishing well over your water well, make sure to clean it out regularly to prevent buildup of debris.
How often should I sample my well water?
The Illinois Department of Public Health requires that all new wells be tested to assure the water supply is safe.  After the initial test, sampling is recommended annually and after the well has undergone repairs.
How do I collect a water sample?
Water samples must be collected in sterile bottles, which are available at the Health Department.  Choose the faucet or spigot closest to where the water supply line enters the house, preferably bypassing any water treatment devices. Remove any aerators from the faucet.  Open the faucet and allow the water to run for 2-3 minutes to flush out the line.  Shut the water off and clean the faucet thoroughly with alcohol (wipes are available at the Health Department).  Turn the faucet on again, making sure the water flows out in a steady stream.  Open the sterile bottle, being careful not to touch the inside of the bottle or the lid.  Grabbing the bottle by the bottom, hold it under the flowing water and fill it to the top line.  Carefully screw the lid on tightly.  Make note of the time the sample was collected and which faucet you used.  Keep the sample on ice or in the refrigerator until it is taken to the Health Department or lab.  (These instructions apply to the standard test for coliform bacteria and nitrates.  Other tests may require slightly different methods.  Check with the Health Department or the lab for instructions.)
You may also arrange to have an inspector come and collect the sample.  Call the Environmental Office for fees and to make an appointment at (815) 544-2951, Ext. 2.
When can I take/submit a water sample?
Call the Environmental Office to confirm sampling dates.  Water samples must be collected after 8:00AM and brought into BCHD before 4:00PM on a sample collection day.