If you have a well water supply, you are likely to be aware that you should be testing on a regular basis. While municipal supplies are monitored and regulated by the EPA, private wells are the responsibility of the property owner. Unfortunately, even experienced well owners are unsure what they should be testing for, so here is a guide to which tests you should use.
A standard mineral analysis tends to include testing for coliform bacteria and nitrates, making it a great place to start your testing. You should perform at least a standard test once per year or if your water has a sudden change in its appearance, taste or smell.
The general mineral test will test for magnesium, nitrate, sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium. It usually also includes metals such as manganese and iron.
If you are having difficulties with sediment or staining, a general mineral analysis can highlight problem issues. If your water has developed a strange odor or taste, the bacterial element of the test may show what is causing the problem. This set of testing will highlight if your water is corrosive to your piping or if it is causing scale to form in your pipes. If you are having difficulties with your water being colored or there are brown stains on your fixtures, you may want to include a supplemental test for tannins.
Copper and Lead:
Checking for copper and lead is important, and it should be performed when your water has been dormant in your pipes for at least six hours. The term “first draw” used for this type of sample. Should the copper and lead levels be excessive due to your water pipes, it can be diminished by flushing your faucet for a few minutes before using the water. While this is not a solution to pipe corrosion, it can be used in the short term to minimize the health risks from drinking water contaminated by a high metal content.
Gas, Oil, and Solvents:
Gasoline, fuel oil, household and industrial solvents are all examples of VOCs or volatile organic chemicals. While some VOCs are considered to be relatively non toxic, there are some that are linked to congenital disabilities, reproductive problems and an increased risk of developing cancer. VOCs can enter your well water in a number of ways including seepage from storage tanks, oil spills and runoff. If your well is located near to an abandoned or active farm fuel tank, bulk storage tank or gas station, there is an increased risk of VOC contamination.
Even if you don’t live in a higher risk area, it is still possible for VOCs to contaminate your well. Improper storage, landfills and certain business activities such as dry cleaners could allow industrial solvents or chemical compounds to enter your well.
If you have concerns about the water quality of your well water, you should speak to a water treatment specialist. A fully WQA certified professional can arrange laboratory testing of your well water and offer guidance for the water treatment options that are not only tailored to your requirements, but exceed the industry standards.
About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:
With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.