Panhandle Health District 800-878-2364

Water Protection

Protecting our most important resource.

Water is the most important natural resource on Earth. Protecting water used for human consumption, such as for drinking, cooking, and hand washing is of utmost importance to Panhandle Health District. Our highly trained Environmental Health Specialists inspect and manage critical materials, drinking water, non-domestic wastewater, shallow injection wells and water from the Rathdrum-Prairie Aquifer.

Most new and existing businesses located over the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer are required to report chemicals they store or use onsite, including paint, oil and fuel, by completing a Commercial/Industrial Application form. There is a fee to cover the cost of reviewing this information and starting a file on the facility. An Environmental Health Specialist will conduct biennial inspections and provide technical assistance to businesses that use chemicals at their facility.

Cup being filled by water faucet

EXEMPTIONS:

The following categories of businesses are not required to submit a Commercial/Industrial Application form:

  • All residential uses including apartments, senior retirement complexes, etc.
  • Churches
  • Food service establishments–convenience stores with fuel sales must complete a Commercial/Industrial Application
  • Child-care centers
  • Small additions and internal remodels of facilities which do not use or store chemicals
  • Office buildings
  • Swimming Pools
  • Rental storage units intended for personal belongings
  • Home occupations which do not use or store chemicals, defined by Kootenai County as: “An occupation, profession or craft which is customarily incidental to be carried on in a dwelling place and not one in which the use of the premises as a dwelling unit is largely incidental to the occupation carried on, and which occupation is carried on by an immediate member of the family residing within the dwelling place.”

Drinking Water

Panhandle Health District administers the Public Water System program under contract from the Department of Environmental Quality. A public drinking water system is any system that provides water to at least 15 service connections or regularly serves an average of at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days of the year.

The Public Water System Switchboard – offered through the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, includes resources related to Idaho’s Drinking Water Rules, system classification requirements, and sanitary survey forms.

Non-Domestic Wastewater

Non-Domestic wastewater is defined as any wastewater that does not meet the same characteristics as typical residential wastewater. Panhandle Health District prevents new discharges of non-domestic wastewater from occurring to on-site sewage systems, takes action to eliminate existing unapproved discharges, and works with cities to require/provide connection to their municipal systems.
Non-Domestic wastewater is defined as any wastewater that is not produced as sanitary wastewater from restroom facilities, showers or kitchens. Examples of non-domestic wastewater include:

  • vehicle wash water
  • discharge from floor drains in automotive repair shops
  • boiler blow down
  • machine shop cooling water
  • process waste waters from manufacturing operations.

Shallow Injection Well

Panhandle Health District (PHD) registers all new shallow injection wells via an agreement with the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR). PHD follows up with an on-site inspection of the shallow injection well and the locations of the well by GPS are recorded. The information and fees are then relayed to the Boise IDWR office.

What is a shallow injection well?
According to IDWR, shallow injection wells in Idaho are wells less than or equal to 18-ft. deep. For the complete story on shallow injection wells: IDWR

Who needs to register their shallow injection well?
All shallow injection wells constructed after October 1, 1997, need to be inventoried. Inventory forms can be obtained at any PHD office. There is a $75 fee per well for inventory.

Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (SVRPA)

The Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (SVRPA) supplies drinking water to over half a million people in Spokane and Kootenai counties. The SVRPA was the 1st aquifer in Idaho and the 2nd in the nation to receive the sole source designation from the EPA. Sole source aquifers receive special protection because they are the sole source of drinking water for an area. The SVRPA is an unconfined aquifer, meaning there are no natural barriers to block the flow of water into the aquifer from the surface.

Panhandle Health District has many programs that work to protect the aquifer and the drinking water for the people of North Idaho. Our Environmental Health Specialists work to contain and inventory hazardous chemicals, test soils and ensure proper sewage disposal systems, and evaluate public water systems to help them meet state and federal standards. See below to learn more about what we do to protect your drinking water!

Facts about Groundwater

  • Only 1 percent of the water on Earth is useable, 99 percent of which is groundwater.
  • Groundwater is 20 to 30 times larger than all U.S. lakes, streams, and rivers combined.
  • Groundwater accounts for 33 percent of all the water used by U.S. municipalities.
  • 44 percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for its drinking water supply.
  • 5 billion gallons of groundwater are used for agricultural irrigation each day. In 1990, that number was 2.2 billion.
  • Groundwater is the world’s most extracted raw material with withdrawal rates in the estimated range of 259 trillion gallons per year.

What can you do to help protect our aquifer?

  • Install efficient dishwashers and washing machines in your home
  • Use a low-flow shower head
  • Plant native landscape plants
  • Less lawn or no lawn (xeriscape)
  • Efficient irrigation practices
  • Properly dispose of residential and commercial waste (in order to prevent it from entering the aquifer)

Water Boil Advisories

Handwashing

Follow either option:

  • Use potable water for handwashing by providing a temporary handwashing station supplied with warm potable water in an insulated container with a free-flowing spigot. Soap, paper towels or hand dryers, and a container for waste water must also be provided.
  • Use warm tap water and soap for handwashing. After hands are rinsed and dried, follow with a liquid hand sanitizer. The hand sanitizer must be used as an additional step; it does not replace handwashing.

Food Preparation

For homes or establishments:

  • If using tap water in your food product, the minimum internal temperature must reach 165 degrees
  • Fahrenheit or potable water must be used.Potable water must be used when washing food products that will not be cooked afterward or prewashed items must be purchased.
  • Tap water may be used to thaw food in a preparation sink, as long as the product is cooked afterward and reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ice made from tap water must be discarded and the ice machine/ice bins must be sanitized once the boil water order has been lifted. All ice, including bagged ice, must be from an approved source.
  • Produce misters must be discontinued.

Utensil Washing/Sanitizers:

  • Test dishwashers to verify sanitizers are within the proper range (mechanical and manual). High
  • temperature dishwashers must reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface of the utensil. Sanitizing
  • solutions must be 50-200 ppm chlorine, 200-400 ppm quaternary ammonium, or 12.5-25 ppm iodine.
  • Test sanitizing solutions routinely with test strips.
  • Single service utensils may be used.
  • Discontinue the use of dipper wells.

Beverages:

  • Coffee and hot drinks must reach a minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Mixed beverages containing water must be discontinued (e.g. pop dispensers connected to water supply).
  • Canned or bottled beverages may be substituted.
  • Discontinue the use of drinking fountains.

Schools

Schools should follow these additional precautions:

  • Advise people using the showers to avoid swallowing water.
  • Discontinue the use of drinking fountains and other plumbing fixtures used to provide drinking water to students and staff.
  • Follow handwashing options outlined above.

After the Incident

Preparing for the boil water advisory to be lifted:
During a boil water advisory, the water purveyor may chlorinate the water distribution system and there may be a chlorine smell present. When this happens, turn on all the drinking fountains, hot and cold faucets, showers, etc., in your facility until you smell chlorine. This will allow the chlorinated water to contact the piping that may have contained contaminated water. Once the boil water advisory has been lifted, follow the additional actions listed below.

Actions necessary after boil water advisory has been lifted:

  • Food contact surfaces must be cleaned and sanitized.
  • Food processing equipment that uses tap water (e.g. juice machines, produce misters, etc.) must be
  • flushed with chlorinated water of adequate concentration (50-200 ppm).

If you are not sure whether your facility is affected, contact your water purveyor (your current water bill will identify your water purveyor). Panhandle Health District and your water purveyor will give notification when the boil water advisory has been lifted and the water is safe for use.

If you have any questions, call (208) 415-5220 to speak to an Environmental Health Specialist.