The water that flows through your home may look like it is not contaminated based on its appearance, yet this is not a clear indication whether or not your water contains harmful microbes. It is recommended to have a well water testing performed as a stipulation prior to purchasing a new home. This bacteria inside the water such as E. Colli can cause gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea and flu like symptoms.
Contamination of water should not be left up to a guessing game. Whether a homeowner properly maintains their home or not does not increase or decrease the chances that their water may be contaminated. We outlined a few common questions that homeowners have about water testing.
While do-it-yourself test kits are available on the market, these tests are never as accurate as those performed by a state-certified lab. Safe water shouldn’t be filled with uncertainty. To know what’s in your water for sure, utilize the services of a certified lab.
Germs and chemicals can get into your well water and contaminate it in different ways. Some germs and chemicals occur naturally. For example, heavy metals like arsenic, lead and cadmium are naturally found in rocks and soil and sometimes seep into groundwater. Other contaminants come from human and animal waste resulting from polluted stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, flooded sewers or individual septic systems that are not working properly.
Several things you should test for are listed below. These germs and chemicals can be a risk to your health.
Coliform bacteria are microbes found in the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals, in soil, on plants and in surface water. These microbes typically do not make you sick; however, because microbes that do cause disease are hard to test for in the water, “total coliforms” are tested instead. If the total coliform count is high, then it is very possible that harmful germs like viruses, bacteria and parasites might also be found in the water.
Fecal coliform bacteria are a kind of total coliform. The feces (or stool) and digestive systems of humans and warm-blooded animals contain millions of fecal coliforms. E. coli is part of the fecal coliform group and may be tested for by itself. Fecal coliforms and E. coli are usually harmless. However, a positive test may mean that feces and harmful germs have found their way into your water system. These harmful germs can cause diarrhea, dysentery and hepatitis. It is important not to confuse the test for the common and usually harmless E. coli with a test for the more dangerous E. coli O157:H7.
Nitrate is naturally found in many types of food. However, high levels of nitrate in drinking water can make people sick. Nitrate in your well water can come from animal waste, private septic systems, wastewater, flooded sewers, polluted storm water runoff, fertilizers, agricultural runoff and decaying plants. The presence of nitrate in well water also depends on the geology of the land around your well. A nitrate test is recommended for all wells. If the nitrate level in your water is higher than the EPA standards, you should look for other sources of water or ways to treat your water.
VOCs are industrial and fuel-related chemicals that may cause bad health effects at certain levels. Which VOCs to test for depends on where you live. Contact your local health or environmental department or the EPA to find out if any VOCs are a problem in your region. Some VOCs to ask about testing for are benzene, carbon tetrachloride, toluene, trichloroethelene and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).
The pH level tells you how acidic or basic your water is. The pH level of the water can change how your water looks and tastes. If the pH of your water is too low or too high, it could damage your pipes, cause heavy metals like lead to leak out of the pipes into the water and eventually make you sick. Other germs or harmful chemicals that you should test for will depend on where your well is located on your property, which state you live in and whether you live in an urban or rural area.
These tests could include testing for lead, arsenic, mercury, radium, atrazine and other pesticides. You should check with your local health or environmental department or the EPA to find out if any of these are a problem in your region. Please remember if your test results say there are germs or chemicals in your water, you should contact your local health or environmental department for help and test your water more often.