Drinking Water Protection for Private Well Owners

PENDLETON UMATILLA COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE-- Umatilla County Public Health recommends that home owners with private wells in the Birch Creek area south of Pendleton and any area in which flooding has occurred, test their water for coliform bacteria. The high level of rainfall may have caused an influx of surface water into the private well owner’s aquifer. Wells can become contaminated by surface water or shallow groundwater, especially during periods of high run-off due to rainfall, snowmelt, or stream flooding.
The health department wants to assure that residents are aware of this potential danger and are taking measures in order to have safe water.

“The best way to determine if the well has been contaminated is to have a water sample tested by a drinking water laboratory,” stated Genni Lehnert-Beers, Administrator Umatilla County Public Health.

If your home water supply is contaminated with fecal coliform (E.coli) bacteria, property owners should boil their drinking water or use an alternate source such as bottled water. Water should be boiled for 1 minute after it reaches a "rolling boil". Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth and food preparation. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.

• The water is safe for hand washing and bathing, but people should not swallow the water.
• Washing dishes can be safely done by using hot water (dishwasher) or placing 1 capful of bleach in the rinse water.


If you experience symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, or headaches and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice. Infants, young children, some elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems may be at an increased risk for medical complications.

If a well has been contaminated by a specific flooding event or surface run-off, the well should be disinfected with bleach and flushed. If this temporary disinfection procedure does not eliminate the bacteria, continuous treatment may be required. Common treatment units that can be installed for your home to continuously treat bacteria include ultraviolet units and chlorination.

For further information, contact Oregon State Drinking Water at (541) 276-8006 or the Umatilla County Public Health at (541) 278-5432.