Most residents in Peel are connected to municipal water supply however some residents rely on private wells as their main source of drinking water. Well water comes from aquifers under the ground.
A well that is properly built and maintained protects the water from potential contaminants both above and below the ground and protects the people that use it from potentially serious health and safety hazards.
- Private well owner responsibilities
- Well maintenance and protection
- How to test the water in your private well
- Well Decommissioning
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Private well owners are legally responsible for wells on their property. If you own a well, it is your responsibility to properly operate and maintain it to make sure the well remains a reliable and safe source of drinking water. When the well is no longer used, it is your responsibility to have it professionally decommissioned.
Constructing a New Well
Choosing a location and constructing your new well
The Ontario Wells Regulation (O.Reg 903) govern the well construction, maintenance and decommissioning (sealing) of private wells. When choosing a new location it is important to obtain a Ministry of the Environment (MOE) licensed well contractor who is qualified to perform any work related to your well.
When constructing a new or upgrading an existing well, it is important to carefully assess the best location for that well. The best location is a high point of land with good access and away from any potential contaminants that could seep into your well supply.
A properly constructed well forms an effective barrier against surface run-off that could enter and potentially contaminate the well. All new wells should be lined with a watertight casing (well casing) that is designed to keep contaminants out.
A properly functioning well requires ongoing maintenance and protection. Protecting your well is a three-step process:
1. Protect your well water to avoid, eliminate, or reduce contaminants such as chemicals, fuels and animal waste from entering the well. Underground and above ground storage tanks especially if they are old or lack corrosion protection can also be a concern if they are located near wells. Where possible, try and replace underground storage tanks with above ground storage tanks that have proper spill and leak containment. A malfunctioning septic system can also be another cause of private well contamination. It is important that you ensure your septic system meets the requirements of the Ontario Building Code. For more information on the maintenance of your septic system visit the Ministry of Food and Agriculture's web page for Septic System Users: Septic Smart!
For more information and tips on protecting your well, please visit the Well Aware website.
2. Inspecting your well
It is recommended that you conduct an inspection of your well at least once a year at the same time as you check for potential contamination. Inspecting your well can include the following:
- Keep your well accessible. As part of your maintenance routine, keep your well clear of trees, plant, debris and other obstructions
- Check the well cap for signs of cracking or damage, and get it fixed or replaced immediately if there is a problem
- Look for problems with the sealant used to fill the space between the drilled hole and the well casing. If the sealant has shrunk, is cracked or has collapsed then the seal needs to be repaired
- Look for any external signs of damage, cracking or dislocation of your well casing. If possible, remove the casing and look for holes or cracks, including evidence of animal infestation or stains coming from the casing joints
- Look for water back-up or ponding. Under some circumstances, contaminated water can flow backwards through your plumbing and into your well. Backflow prevention devices are available from a licensed well contractor or pump installer
- Remove the cover from your well pit and look for water, debris, vermin etc. Do not enter the pit as it could be unsafe and contain some toxic gases
Consult with an MOE licensed well contractor for more information on how to properly inspect your well.
In addition to protecting and inspecting your private well, owners are also responsible to make sure the quality of the water in their well is safe to drink.
Water quality in your private well can change over time and testing your well regularly can help you properly maintain the well.
Some potential contaminants in your well water may include Total Coliforms and E.coli. The presence of these bacteria indicates inadequate treatment and your well will need to be disinfected and re-sampled.
Naturally occurring minerals may adversely affect the groundwater’s aesthetics - its appearance, smell or taste - resulting in hardness, a rotten-egg smell or staining but do not affect the quality of the well water.
For information on how to test your well water for bacterial contamination and how to disinfect your well, please visit Peel's Public Health web page for Private Well Testing.
An unused, abandoned or improperly maintained well that has not been decommissioned (sealed) properly can pose health and safety concerns and threatens groundwater quality.
It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that each unused well is properly sealed. To help private well owners, the Region of Peel offers residents a chance to decommission their private abandoned wells through the Private Well Abandonment Program. It provides decommissioning services at no cost to residents. Please visit the Private Well Abandonment Program web page for more details on the program scope and participation criteria.
- How can I maintain my well to help prevent any contamination?
- What happens if I drink contaminated water?
- What is the first step to take to protect our water sources?
- How can I test my private well water to ensure it is safe to use?
- Can my septic system affect my private well water source?
- How do I properly decommission (seal) a private well on my property?
- Where can I find more links and resources for information on private wells?
1. How can I maintain my well to help prevent any contamination?
Private well owners are legally responsible for maintenance of wells on their property. Proper maintenance of your well can help prevent contaminants from entering the well and contaminating your water source.
Well maintenance includes but is not limited to the following:
- Protecting your water well at the ground surface to avoid, eliminate, or reduce the contaminants from entering the well
- Inspecting your well regularly and keeping it in good running order
- Testing your well regularly and taking action when the well is contaminated
Aside from well maintenance, it is important that the location of your well and the construction of your well follows the applicable provincial regulations and is done by an MOE licensed contractor. Please visit the 'Private Well Owner's Responsibilities' section of this web page for more information on 'Constructing a new well' and 'Well maintenance and protection'.
2. What happens if I drink contaminated water?
Private wells can become contaminated with bacteria and other chemicals. Consumption of contaminated water can cause health effects ranging from no reaction to mild or severe illness and in some cases even death. Factors that affect the severity of possible illness include age, general health condition of the individual and the type and amount of the contaminant.
For more information on health impacts, please visit Health Canada.
3. What is the first step to take to protect our water sources?
The protection of source water is the first step in ensuring the safety of your well water. Source protection is often the most cost-effective way to keep contaminants out of the drinking water.
Visit Peel’s Source Water Protection for more information on what Peel is doing to protect water sources.
4. How can I test my private well water to ensure it is safe to use?
The Region of Peel's Public Health Department can help you test your private well for bacterial contamination. Please visit Peel's Public Health Private Wells for more information on where you can pick up your water testing kits and how to get your well water tested. Tips on keeping your well safe and how to disinfect a contaminated well can also be found on our Public Health web page.
There are several residents and businesses in Peel that rely on septic systems as their primary wastewater (sewage) system. Septic systems usually consist of a tank and a leaching bed, also referred to as a tile bed. Owners of private septic systems are responsible for the proper maintenance, safe operation and repair of their systems.
To ensure that septic systems in Ontario are well maintained to help protect the quality of water, the Province has taken steps such as passing the Clean Water Act, 2006 and making amendments to the Building Code Act, 1992.
For more information on how you can maintain your septic system and to help protect your surrounding source water, please visit the Ministry of Food and Agriculture's web page for Septic System Users: Septic Smart!
6. How do I properly decommission (seal) a private well on my property?
It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that any unused well on the property is properly decommissioned (sealed). An unused, abandoned or improperly maintained well can pose several health and safety concerns to well owners and their families. Please visit Peel's Private Well Abandonment Program for more information on Peel's Well Abandonment Program.
7. Where can I find more links and resources for information on private wells?
The Provincial and Federal government have several websites and resources where you can find more information about Private Wells regarding construction, maintenance, responsibilities of private well owners, well testing and any other information regarding private wells.
Below you will find direct links to several Federal and Provincial websites related to private wells:
- Directory of Licensed Water Well Contractors in Ontario
Ontario Ministry of the Environment
- Private Rural Water Supplies
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs
- Well Aware
Public Health Ontario
- What's in your Well? A Guide to Well Treatment and Maintenance