CALDWELL — Southwest District Health officials are asking residents living off of well water to have it tested in honor of National Ground Water Awareness Week, which starts Sunday and ends March 12.

Southwest District Health offices will provide free water nitrate tests from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday. The local office is at 13307 Miami Lane in Caldwell, near the intersection of Highway 55 and Florida Avenue.

Free tests will also be provided at multiple rural locations:

* 9 a.m. to noon in Homedale at 132 E. Idaho Ave.

* 9 a.m. to noon in Payette at 1155 Third Ave.

* 1 – 4 p.m. in Emmett at 1008 E. Locust St.

* 9 a.m. to noon in Weiser at 46 W. Court St.

“Water samples should be provided in a wide-mouth canning jar or a food-grade container,” a press release stated.

In Idaho, well water systems are the source of drinking water for almost 95 percent of residents, according to the release. Since water from private wells is not tested or regulated by any public entity, private well owners must take the responsibility to protect their families against potentially dangerous contaminants. Well owners should test for bacteria, nitrates and any contaminant of local concern.

“Just as you check your smoke detectors seasonally, well owners should also test their well water annually to ensure water quality,” said Brian Crawford, director of Environmental Health Services, in the press release. “The only way to know if private well water contains contaminants is to have it tested.”

Southwest Idaho has experienced elevated levels of arsenic, fluoride and uranium in many areas. Each contaminant may potentially cause a different health issue and have various symptoms. The elderly, infants, children, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable and likely to suffer from water contaminants, the press release stated.

Canyon County groundwater issues fluctuate throughout the county. Elevated levels of arsenic, fluoride and uranium are found frequently throughout Canyon County, but especially in the Wilder, Greenleaf, Huston and Sunnyslope areas. Wells in the areas of Huston and Melba continue to test high in nitrates, including deep wells. High levels of fluoride are reported southwest of Nampa and west of Melba.

For information about the screenings or if you need help in deciding what to test for, locating a certified lab or understanding your water test results, call Southwest District Health at 455-5400.