Testing the waters

Tom Henihan
Express Staf

For those who rely on drinking water from a well, a cistern or trucked in water, Alberta Health Services offers both chemical and bacterial testing to ensure the water is safe to consume. It is ten dollars.

The chemicals in drinking water with which Alberta Health is most concerned are fluoride, nitrates and or nitrites.

Nitrates and nitrites are nitrogen-oxygen chemicals that coalesce with a range of organic and inorganic compounds.

Nitrates occur in the soil, in animal waste, crop residues and nitrogen fertilizers and because they are soluble, they move with water.

Once ingested, nitrates convert to nitrites.

Excessive levels of nitrates in drinking water can cause serious illness in infants by disrupting the oxygen-carrying capacity of the child’s blood. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin called “blue baby syndrome.”

Excessive fluoride in the water can create dental fluorosis, a chronic condition that causes mottling of the teeth and in severe cases calcification of the ligaments.

“Some water is naturally high in fluoride and nitrates so it is good to get it tested initially just to see where your baseline is,” says Angela Vaters, public health inspector with Alberta Health Services in High Prairie.

The test cost $10 and testing bottles are available at the High Prairie Health Complex, Monday to Wednesday from 9 am to 2 pm, McLennan Sacred Heart Community Health Centre Monday to Wednesday before 11 am and River Community Health Centre 780-618.3453 Monday to Wednesday before 1:30 pm.

“You go to the front desk and you buy your sample bottles and we give you procedures on how to properly take the samples and then you bring them back in and we submit it to the lab and you should get your results in about two or three business days.

If there is something negative found in the sample you get a call right away but if everything is ok the results get mailed out to you.

Alberta Health Services recommends well owners do a bacteriological analysis up to four times per year and a chemical analysis every three to five years.

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