Many Winona County residents rely on privately owned wells for drinking water, and well owners are responsible for testing and protecting their drinking water. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends testing for nitrates, the most common contaminant, every two years. 

At high levels, nitrates could pose harmful risks, especially to infants and pregnant women.  Improper well construction/location and failing septic systems or overuse of fertilizer can contribute to higher nitrate levels. 

Watch the new “TAP IN Initiative” video (co.winona.mn.us/562/Water-Testing), collaboratively developed by Winona County and five southeastern Minnesota Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Well owners can learn how to protect their well water.  

Test your well water. Well test kits are available from the Southeastern Minnesota Water Analysis Lab, a regional certified lab, at olmsted.mn.us or call 507-328-7495. 

Attend area water testing events. The Minnesota Well Owners Association (MNWOO) is a nonprofit that will be offering a free water screening clinic for nitrates and chlorides on Thursday, February 2, 2022, from 1-7 p.m. at the St. Charles Community Center (830 Whitewater Avenue in St. Charles). Please bring your drinking water (eight ounces) in a clean plastic or glass container. 

Eliminate well contamination sources on your property. Don’t mix hazardous chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers near your well, and make sure the ground slopes away from your well.  If your drinking water has contaminants, consider a well treatment system. Water conditioning professionals can assist.    

Fix any structural issues that can compromise drinking water integrity. Septic systems that are failing can leak untreated wastewater to your groundwater. Contact Winona County septic system staff to have your system inspected, and learn more about current American Rescue Plan Act funds to help fix or replace septic systems where groundwater is vulnerable. A licensed septic system installer or pumper is needed for repair and replacement work. The Winona County Septic System webpage has a list of licensed installers, and financial assistance applications: co.winona.mn.us/280/Septic-Systems.

Abandoned, unused wells and damaged well casings can provide a direct pathway for contaminants to enter groundwater. While property owners are responsible for the costs of sealing or maintaining wells, before you start any well improvement project, contact Winona County, as well as a licensed well driller: co.winona.mn.us/344/Wells. If your property is within a community wellhead management area, contact managers for that community system.  Funding may be available for sealing unused wells. Financial assistance may also be available from various grants. For example, well-sealing funds will soon be available to residents within the Whitewater River Watershed.  

Let safe drinking water be a resolution you can keep.