Simple Steps to Maintain a Safe Drinking Water Supply

Winnebago County Department of Public Health
401 Division Street
Rockford, Il 61104
(815) 720-4100

Groundwater Facts:

The drinking water for your home or business comes from groundwater.

Groundwater moves slowly in underground streams and is easily contaminated by fertilizers, sewage disposal wastes, pesticides, and other chemicals.

Rain, snow, and sleet replace the groundwater that we use.

Simple Steps to Protect Your Well

Make sure your well cap is tightly sealed and in good repair.

The top of the well cap must be kept at least 8 inches above the ground. Slope the ground away from the well.

Divert runoff from barnyards, silos, and crops away from the well.

Use care with yard equipment around your well. Damage to the well casing may allow contaminants to seep into your well.

Always have a licensed well driller and/or pump installer construct, repair, or service your well.

Simple Steps to Protect Your Water Quality

Store paints, fertilizers, gasoline, motor oil, etc. far from the well. Avoid spilling these items on the ground.  Illinois residents (not businesses) can dispose of household hazardous waste at the Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Center at 3333 Kishwaukee Street on Saturdays from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. and on Sunday from noon until 4:00 P.M., excluding weekends closest to the holidays.

Attach backflow preventers between faucets with ¾ inch hose bibs and garden or laundry hoses.

Properly seal unused water wells on your property. Old wells are a direct route for pollutants to enter the groundwater which you and your neighbors drink. The Winnebago County Department of Public Health can answer your questions about how to abandon a well. Call (815) 720-4100.

If you have a private sewage system (septic system), do not dump paints, solvents, acids, or any highly toxic substances down your drains as they will end up in your yard and may affect the groundwater that supplies your well.

Simple Steps to Protect Your Health

 Test your well water yearly for bacteria and nitrates. The City of Rockford Environmental Laboratory offers these tests and can be contacted at (779) 348-7373.

The quality of your drinking water may be affected by seasonally heavy rainfall. We recommend you take water samples at different seasons of the year to fully comprehend the year round quality of your water.

We recommend that well water be tested every 5 years for the presence of volatile organic chemicals (VOC's) and pesticides. These tests are offered annually in May by the Farm Bureau (815) 962-0653 and the Soil & Water Conservation District (815) 965-2392

Contact the Winnebago County Department of Public Health before adding buildings, additions, and/or moving septic lines.



As the population of Winnebago County grows, more residents are building and moving into areas that are not near existing sewers and cannot economically be served by community or public sewers. Therefore, new home owners are relying on septic systems to safely dispose of their wastewater. Improper use or maintenance of a septic system can result in one or all of the following problems:

  1. The spread of many serious diseases associated with sewage which includes cholera, infectious hepatitis and typhoid fever.
  2. The costly damage of sewage backing up inside a home.
  3. The ponding of sewage on the ground surface creating a favorable breeding area for mosquitoes and other insects.
  4. Very expensive repair and/or replacement costs of a new system.
  5. Objectionable and undesirable odors.
  6. Polluted ground water, wells, lakes and rivers.

By understanding your septic system, you can maximize the effectiveness, life and quality of the system and minimize the chance of incurring the aforementioned problems.

What is a Septic System and How Does It Work

The septic system is a sub-surface on-site sewage disposal system that is designed to dispose of normal wastewater flows generated in a household. Wastewater includes the drainage from all normal household plumbing and washing machines, but excluding water softener discharges and footing drains. A conventional septic system consists of a septic tank, a distribution box and a sub-surface absorption field. Alternate non-conventional system designs, including aeration units and Wisconsin Mound Systems, will sometimes be used. Household wastewaters are first received into a septic tank. The septic tank will retain the wastewater for at least 24 hours and let the solid fraction of the wastewater settle out and separate. This allows time for bacteria to decompose and liquefy a portion of the solids called sludge. The clarified liquid then flows out of the tank to a distribution or drop box. Here the wastewater is distributed evenly throughout the septic field. The septic field consists of a number of seepage trenches. The seepage trenches are usually 3 ft wide and up to 36 inches deep with a perforated pipe in the surface. Finally, the underlayering soils filter out bacteria and other impurities as the wastewater percolated downward.

The Do's and Don'ts of Using Your Septic System


…Ever enter or put your head inside a septic tank, due to the possible presence of toxic gases.

…Put non-biodegradable items into the toilet or sink. (i.e. sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, paper towels, condoms, anything plastic, cigarettes, tampons, etc.)

…Put toxic substance in your septic system such as paints, oils, acids or solvents. (These substances don't break down and could contaminate drinking water supplies.)

…Install a garbage grinder. They can cause premature system failures.

…Use septic tank additives. They have been known to have no benefit and can cause harm to the septic field and drinking water supplies.

…Compact the earth near or on the area of the field before construction.

…Ever drive cars or heavy equipment over the septic system.

…Build over the septic field, this includes driveways and above ground swimming pools.

…Wastefully use water.

…Plant new trees or leave existing trees in a close proximity to the field. (Roots are responsible for many costly failures.)

…Divert surface discharge or downspouts onto or toward the system.


…Annually inspect the condition and level in the septic tank.

…Have tank pumped at least every 2-3 years or sooner if needed.

…Install lint traps on washer and discard grease in garbage cans.

…Allow for accessibility for a backhoe or pumper to service your system.

…Keep footing drains and water softener discharges out of septic system.

…Install water-conserving devices on showerheads and sinks.

…Check and repair all leaking faucets, toilets, pumps, etc.

…Divert surface run-off around system if possible.

…By practicing these do's and don'ts you can extend the life and usefulness of your septic system and avoid costly repair or replacement costs.

Recommended Septic System Maintenance Schedule

-Annually inspect the condition of septic tank components. (Access lid, baffles, liquid level, and thickness of scum layer, evidence of overflow.)

-Every 2-3 years or as needed, have tank pumped by a licensed pumper.

-Check ground over and adjacent to system for soggy or wet spots and greener areas of grass.

-Regularly check and correct any household plumbing leaks.

Know Your Own Septic System

Date Installed:_________________________________________________________________

Septic Permit Number:___________________________________________________________

Name of Licensed Installer:_____________________________________________________

Tank Size:____________________Length of Lines:__________________________________

Depth of Trenches:______________________________________________________________

Number of Bedrooms in Home:_____________________________________________________

Distance from Tank to any Wells:________________________Tank to House:__________

Distance from Tank to Field:____________________________

A copy of all newer and some older septic system layouts are available from the Winnebago County Health Department.

Septic System Inspection and Maintenance Record

Date of Service: Who Serviced System: Phone Number Contractor


2. ________________:_____________________________:____________________________

3. ________________:_____________________________:____________________________

4. ________________:_____________________________:____________________________

5. ________________:_____________________________:____________________________




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