Know what’s in your well

Nearly one in four people living in Oregon get their drinking water from a well.

If you are one of them, you have the right to know what’s in your water. Domestic well water can be contaminated by bacteria, nitrates, and arsenic, among other things—all of which can have serious health impacts.

Why should you be concerned?
These contaminants can cause serious health problems such as cancer, miscarriage and thyroid disorders. Pregnant women and small children are particularly at risk from nitrate exposure, especially infants because their digestive and enzyme systems are not fully developed. High levels of nitrates can cause infants to suffer from “Blue Baby Syndrome,” which decreases the ability of blood to carry oxygen and can be fatal.

Oregon has a fairly widespread problem with nitrate, arsenic and bacteria contamination of well water. Oregon Health Authority has excellent resources, including an online Water Well Owner’s Handbook and an interactive map showing areas where tests of private wells have concerning levels of arsenic and nitrates.

Oregon Health Authority recommends that all domestic well owners conduct a one-time arsenic test and annual nitrate and bacteria tests. State law currently requires property owners to test domestic wells at the time of a property sale. However, compliance with that requirement is low, and state officials have no enforcement mechanism.

In reality, most families that drink well water have never had their well tested, and renters often lack information on whether their well water is safe to drink, despite the legal requirement of landlords to provide safe drinking water.

Oregon Environmental Council is forwarding legislation in Salem to ensure that renters who depend on well water at their homes for drinking, cooking and bathing have information about contaminants so they can take action to protect their families.

Our “Safe Well Water” bill (which did not pass in 2019, but we’ll try for again) seeks to:

  • Require landlords to test drinking water wells for E. coli, arsenic and nitrates, and inform tenants of the testing results.
  • Direct Oregon Health Authority to analyze well test data and provide public education in areas where contaminants are present.
  • Create a new Safe Well Water Fund to help local health authorities and other educators provide well water education and testing of wells, and to provide grants and loans to low-income property owners and landlords for repair of drinking water wells or installation of water quality treatment systems.
Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Transportation Solutions Policy Featured Water Conservation Toxics-Free Environments Rural Partnerships Climate Protection Eco-Healthy Homes OCAP News Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Living Green OEC History People Air Quality Emerging Leaders Board Water News Agriculture
Sort by
a graphic of a transportation future

What could we do with a billion dollars?

Now that Congress has passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, more than a billion dollars will be coming to Oregon for transportation. That’s great news and it presents us with a big opportunity to think about how we can spend that money wisely. Some of the money is committed to specific projects already underway. But, we’ll have choices with the rest and we should demand that it be invested in things
November 15, 2021, 11:28 pm


Top Ten Achievements of 2020-2021

Oregon Environmental Council works year-round to protect Oregon’s water, air, land, and communities. This year was a special one. We made Oregon a better place through our participation in state-wide coalitions, tireless bird-dogging of rulemaking processes, deft strategy in the legislative session, and hosting welcoming educational programs. This work is is a reflection of our donors. Take a moment to revel with us in these outstanding
November 8, 2021, 10:01 pm


E-Bike Events this Fall with OEC

At OEC, we believe that a high-quality transportation system is one that offers people healthy and safe choices to meet their transportation needs. Electric bicycles and other kinds of small electric mobility devices, like scooters and skateboards, are potentially transformative because they can meet many of the same needs as a car, but with fewer costs, and a lot less
November 8, 2021, 7:31 pm


Removing Barriers to Safe Home Cleaning Products

Many popular and inexpensive home cleaning products contain toxic chemicals. There are alternatives, but they can be expensive or require extra steps. What happens when those barriers are removed? OEC partnered with Hacienda CDC to find out.
October 28, 2021, 6:39 pm


We’ve moved!

After 18 years of being in our downtown office space, we have moved east of the river into the East Bank Lofts! The move is bittersweet as we transition from a loved and familiar space to a new and exciting chapter in OEC history. We made so many beautiful memories in our old office space from strategizing new partnerships and alliances to celebrating our policy victories in
October 11, 2021, 8:03 pm


Summer isn’t the only time to worry about woodsmoke

As we roll into fall, many people start cleaning out their wood-burning stoves and fireplaces to start heating their homes, or just to get that cozy ambiance. What many people don’t realize is that, when a lot of people are burning wood in their homes, the cumulative effect on air quality can be similar to a wildfire. OEC has been advocating to reduce harmful air pollution from urban wood fires and to provide healthier options for those that rely on w
October 8, 2021, 10:34 am


ODOT Mega-projects in the Portland area

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has a mega-project wishlist. The top projects on this list are the Abernethy Bridge on I-205, and the Boone Bridge, the Rose Quarter, and the Columbia River Crossing on I-5.  These projects have been waiting for funding for years or even decades. A total price tag for Oregon of at least four billion dollars seems likely, and for that, we’ll receive a few short segments of highways with more la
October 5, 2021, 12:13 pm


Without TFKA expansions, OHA forced to choose 5 chemicals to regulate

There’s thousands of potentially harmful chemicals in products that are marketed to kids. As of now, OHA can regulate just a few of them. We need to change that.  In 2015, OEC’s advocacy lead to the passage of a groundbreaking law, the Toxics Free Kids Act (TFKA), which required manufacturers of children’s products sold i
September 30, 2021, 8:31 pm


Road-trips, Representatives and Adventures in Eastern Oregon

Summer is road-trip time, and recently, OEC staff Karen Lewotsky (Water Policy and Rural Partnerships Director) and Morgan Gratz-Weiser (Legislative Director) headed southeast across Oregon to Crane, with stops along the way in Tumalo and Prineville. Why Crane? The gathering in Crane was organized by leading legislators and partner organizations Verde, Willamette
September 10, 2021, 8:24 pm


1 Reply to "Know what’s in your well"

  • What we're watching: Water | Oregon Environmental Council
    April 25, 2019 (10:35 pm)

    […] one in four people living in Oregon get their drinking water from a well. If you are one of them, you have the right to know what’s in your water. Domestic well water can be contaminated by bacteria, nitrates, and arsenic, among other […]