Well Water Testing Protects Your Family’s Health

By Marissa Velazquez

In many locations, homes require wells to meet their needs. Although the EPA requires that public supplies be tested to ensure the match the standards that have been established, such procedures are not required of private wells located in the USA. Well water testing is beneficial in ensuring that the home has a safe supply to meet occupant needs.

Several tests are used as determiners of the quality of the supply along with the presence of contaminates. Indicator strains of bacteria and chemicals, which do not necessarily cause illness, are checked. Their presence indicates the supply may have been contaminated by germs, including those in raw sewage that can cause illness.

Bacteria from the digestive systems of other warm blooded animals and humans is of grave concern. Labs often perform a total coliform test to indicate the presences of these bacteria in the submitted sample. If these counts return large numbers, there is a greater chance of disease causing organisms in the supply that can bring harm to those who consume the product.

Samples are also often tested for an indicator strain of E. Coli. A positive result indicates fecal contamination in the supply. Although the indicator strain of E. Coli is generally harmless, its presence indicates other germs that can cause health concerns including dysentery, hepatitis and diarrhea. Homeowners should not confuse the indicator strain with the more harmful one that often makes the news due to restaurant or food contamination.

Labs generally perform a pH test. This test is quick to perform and determines whether the sample is acid, base or neutral. While a reading of 7 is neutral, higher or lower numbers can affect quality. Non-neutral samples may erode heavy metals form pipes. This causes plumbing problems and may make consumers sick in a home.

While nitrates are found in many types of food, they should not be in your drinking supply as they can make you and others sick. Sources of nitrates include animal waste, septic tanks, flooded sewers and polluted storm water. Fertilizers and runoff from farming can also affect the well’s quality. The natural geographic features surrounding wells can increase nitrate levels.

Contamination by volatile organic compounds is generally regional. These contaminates come from man made pollution, such as industry or fuel spills. Check with the lab or local health department to determine the VOCs for which regional wells should be tested.

Some health concerns are regionally specific. For example, heavy metals may be a problem, especially in the Western USA. In other regions, there may be specific bacteria which is of concern and for which the sample should be tested. The local health department of the laboratory can help homeowners determine the tests which are necessary to ensure their safety.

Generally, homeowners should submit samples to a lab for well water testing annually. Samples should also be submitted when there is a difference in quality of if land disturbances have occurred. With proper testing, you ensure your supply remains healthy for the family.

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