A Step By Step Guide to Well Water Testing
An Overview of Well Contamination and the Problems it Causes
Groundwater is one of the United State’s most important natural resources. It is also a vital source of drinking water for many people living in rural areas where they must supply their own drinking and cleaning water from local wells. In 2015, nearly 42 million Americans supplied their own home water from groundwater wells. With so many people impacted by the quality and safety of the water from their wells, well water testing has become a very important method of determining water safety. In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducted a study of the water quality in over 2,000 private wells to measure whether there was contamination and if so to what extent. The study determined that almost 23 percent of these wells had at least one contaminant at a level which posed a potential health concern.
Is Well Water Safe to Drink?
In the vast number of cases well water is very safe to drink. But, based on the USGS study of about 2,100 private well samples taken across the country, many different contaminants were found, measured and identified in those wells. From chloride to petroleum-based chemicals, to radon and heavy metals, many dangerous pollutants were identified. It was also found that, while many of the wells were free of these contaminants and many more were free from levels that would pose potential health concerns, about a quarter of them contained one or more contaminants at levels that were a potential health concern.
The most prominent pollutants were often from natural geologic sources, they leached from rocks and sediment in and around the aquifers from which the wells pulled their water. Naturally occurring contaminants such as radon, arsenic, nitrate, manganese and uranium. Although nitrate does come from natural sources, it is usually present at dangerously high levels when it comes from human-made sources, like septic tanks or fertilizers.
The answer to the question, “is well water safe to drink?,” is mostly yes. But there are a significant number of exceptions and it can be impossible to know whether your drinking water is safe unless you have it tested by an environmental testing laboratory.
The Importance of Well Water Testing
If you get your drinking water from a well you must test your own water for safety. Today’s laboratories are equipped with sophisticated, top of the line drinking water testing equipment. Their labs are capable of providing extremely accurate results for a broad range of potentially dangerous pollutants. The professional engineers employed by a drinking water testing lab are able to design and tailor their tests and methods to meet all federal, state and local laws and standards. They will also test for the most likely known pollutants in your area and will interpret the results and identify potential problems for you.
Owning and drawing your drinking water from a private well should raise concerns for you about the quality of its water. Having it tested on a regular schedule to make sure there aren’t any contaminants at levels of health concerns should be a priority. Be continually aware of the possibility that contamination can occur even in areas where there have been no particular vulnerabilities to well water contamination, previously.
What to Test For in Well Water
A very wide range of potentially dangerous contaminants can get into your well and cause problems for your drinking water. The next several common pollutants should also be supplemented with tests for anything that is known to have been present in your area already and for any naturally occurring elements or compounds that could pose a health risk.
- Testing the pH level and for bacterial contamination is the first and easiest test.
- Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas that is present in rocks and soil around the world. Radon can also dissolve into groundwater and be released later in the home, when showering or washing dishes. When this radon is breathed in it can accumulate in the body and increase the risk of diseases, particularly lung cancer.
- Arsenic can leach from naturally occurring pockets in the earth. Studies reveal that drinking water with arsenic often and repeatedly over a person’s lifetime can lead to cancer, cardiovascular or neurological disorder and other chronic ailments.
- Nitrate is naturally found in a lot of different foods and is safe in small doses. However, if it is consumed at high levels like when drinking water is contaminated, it can make people sick. The primary sources of nitrate that leach into wells are from agricultural runoff, flooded sewers and private septic systems.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are a group of harmful industrial chemicals resulting from manufacturing plants or petroleum based fuels. These contaminants have been illegally dumped or have leached into soils around chemical plants, refineries, gas stations and entered groundwater aquifers leading to well water contamination.
- PFAS, otherwise known as “forever chemicals,” are extremely long-lasting chemicals that were devised for fire-fighting purposes and non-stick coatings
Contamination from other sources depends on the location of your well and if you live in a rural or urban area. Some of these include lead, mercury, radium and pesticides.
How Often To Test Well Water
Anyone using wells as their primary water source should have their water tested on a regular basis. But private well owners want to know how often is best. Private wells are not regulated by state agencies, but most state public health agencies provide helpful information for private well owners on their websites. Information on recommended testing procedures, how often to test well water, well water treatment and on other frequently asked questions are available.
It is the responsibility of homeowners to test their well water quality and ensure that the quality of their well water is good. The EPA recommends testing your well water at least once a year, so here are three good reasons to do so:
- It is important to check for bacteria and for other contaminants because groundwater can change over time.
- Testing your well will ensure that your well water treatment system is working properly.
- Testing regularly creates a historical record of your water quality. If land usage nearby changes because of construction, development, manufacturing or agricultural activity and your water quality gets impacted, your data record can help with legal restoration.
Where Can I Get My Well Water Tested?
Although using self testing kits is a possibility, those kits cannot test for a wide range of potential contaminants and cannot test for the low levels necessary to get the kinds of results and records you may need. To ensure that you get excellent results on tests for the wide range of contaminants necessary to ensure healthy drinking water and your peace of mind, contact an environmental testing laboratory.
Testing laboratories have sophisticated, top of the line drinking water testing equipment that will give you extremely precise and accurate results for a full range of pollutants. The professional technicians employed by highly reputable water testing labs can be fully trusted to meet and exceed all your testing needs. They can also tailor their tests and methods to fit your unique situation, your area, your usage and they will interpret your results and identify potential problems for you. If you are wondering, “where can I get my well water tested?,” the safest answer is to research the very best environmental testing laboratories and choose the one that meets your needs.
Torrent Laboratory employs EPA approved testing procedures (Test Methods) and services that meet all quality control analytical and documentation requirements demanded by California regulating authorities for well water testing.
Torrent Laboratory’s environmental testing services are backed by a breadth and depth of certification, including California’s Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (CA ELAP), The Department of Defense Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (DoD ELAP), the Department of Energy (DOE ELAP) and National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Certification (NELAC). Our full-service lab also offers the fastest turnaround time in the industry. So you get the information you need—faster.
Torrent has decades of experience and our chemists have a combined 150 years of analytical expertise. We know exactly how to serve you! Our final reports contain an additional attachment that includes the Federal Guidelines so that you can compare your water quality data. And, our relationship doesn’t necessarily end once you receive your data–Torrent is always available if you have additional questions or concerns.