Photograph of  a loose, unsanitary well plumbing system exposed to surface water runoffr  © DJ Friedman Strategy for Testing Drinking Water from Household Wells
     


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Water testing strategy:

What should be our approach to testing well water for contamination? - US EPA advice, annotated. Here we give information about drinking water from home wells (also considered private drinking water sources). It describes types of activities in your area that can create threats to your water supply.

This US EPA material also describes problems to look for and offers maintenance suggestions. Sources for more information and help are also listed. [Editing for clarity by DF are marked by brackets or italics] Initial Source: EPA 816-K-02-003 January 2002. Edits, content addition, & web page design

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2. Strategy: Have Your Well Water Tested [for Contaminants - EPA Suggests a Well Water Testing Strategy]

Test your water every year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, test for these also. Chemical tests can be expensive. Limit them to possible problems specific to your situation. Again, local experts can tell you about possible impurities in your area.

Often county health departments do tests for bacteria and nitrates. For other substances, health departments, environmental offices, or county governments should have a list of state certified laboratories. Your State Laboratory Certification Officer can also provide one. Call EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline, (800) 426- 4791, for the name and phone number of your state's certification officer.

Before taking a sample, contact the lab that will perform your tests. Ask for instructions and sampling bottles. Follow the instructions carefully so you will get correct results. The first step is getting a good water sample. It is also important to follow advice about storing the samples.

Ask how soon they must be taken to the lab for testing. These instructions can be very different for each substance being tested.

Remember to test your water after replacing or repairing any part of the well system (piping, pump, or the well itself.) Also test if you notice a change in your water's look, taste, or smell.

The chart at Reasons to Test Well Water will help you spot problems. The last five problems listed are not an immediate health concern, but they can make your water taste bad, may indicate problems, and could affect your system long term.

Reasons to Test Your Water [and What Water Tests to Order for Various Situations]

This article series gives you general information about drinking water from home wells (also considered private drinking water sources). It describes types of activities in your area that can create threats to your water supply. This text also describes problems to look for and offers maintenance suggestions.

Sources for more information and help are also listed. [Editing for clarity by DF are marked by brackets or italics] Initial Source: EPA 816-K-02-003 January 2002. Edits, content addition, & web page design

Reasons to Test Well Water: Signs of Possible Water Contamination

Conditions or Nearby Activities: Test for: (also See CHEATING ON WATER TESTS)
Recurring gastrointestinal illness Coliform bacteria - See BACTERIA TEST GUIDE and TOTAL COLIFORM TESTING
Household plumbing contains lead pH, lead, copper - LEAD CONTAMINATION in WATER, HOW to TEST
Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich Radon
Corrosion of pipes, plumbing

Corrosion, pH, lead -

See LEAD CONTAMINATION in WATER, HOW to TEST

and   LEAD in WATER, ACTION GUIDE

and  LEAD POISONING SYMPTOMS

and  LEAD TEST VARIATION CAUSES

Nearby areas of intensive agriculture

Nitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria, also

See SEWAGE CONTAMINATION

Coal or other mining operations nearby Metals, pH, corrosion
Gas drilling operations nearby Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium
Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-cleaning operation nearby Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals
Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks Volatile organic compounds -ODORS IN WATER
Objectionable taste or smell Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals
Septic system failures or septic too close to well Sewage, coliform bacteria, nitrates, nitrites - See SEWAGE CONTAMINATION
Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry Iron, copper, manganese
Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium
Scaly residues, soaps don't lather Hardness
Rapid wear of water treatment equipment pH, corrosion
Water softener needed to treat hardness Manganese, iron
Water appears cloudy, frothy, or colored Color, detergents

Article series contents

 

Continue reading at INTERPRET WATER TEST RESULTS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see WATER POLLUTANT SOURCES

Or see WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES

Suggested citation for this web page

WELL WATER TESTING STRATEGY at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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