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How to decide what drinking water contamination tests you should order: this article describes the types of water testing available, outlines common water test fees, describes the details of what parameters are included in various water test options, and gives advice to assist you in deciding what tests to order.
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To avoid any conflict of interest we recommend that home inspectors and water testing companies follow (as some do) a simple fee policy: a flat fee, for example, $75.00 is charged plus whatever lab fees apply for whatever water tests you select. By this method you can be assured that any water test selection advice you hear is motivated only by your interest and not by possible profit on various lab fees.
We mention this because a few water test companies aggressively market "selling water tests" to building inspectors as a way to increase their bottom line. Inspectors are required to avoid conflicts of interest with those of their clients.
Here are some typical water test lab fees for the minimum test (bacteria presence/absence) and more comprehensive tests which look for groups of common water contaminants:
Note: these tests and fees will vary depending on lab chosen and subject to lab rate changes.
Be careful: some laboratories doing business in some U.S. States are NOT fully certified for all of the tests they are offering and in some cases are not certified at all. More tricky, an out of state lab may hold a testing license in New York for one type of test, such as lead or asbestos, but may be selling other services, typically bacteriological testing, for which they are specifically not licensed.
Tests by such agents could be illegal and may also be conducted improperly. Discuss any concerns with your home inspector or test consultant.
One Connecticut "water test lab" offering water test services in New York, for example, is not licensed to offer bacteriological test services but does so, claiming that they are "licensed" because they have N. Y. license to perform certain other tests. This can be more serious than a technicality if a later issue arises about the water quality and the tests that were performed at a property.
water tests that focus on water potability (is the water safe to drink) may miss other important water conditions, such as water that is too high in mineral content, clogging pipes and water heaters (see MEASURE WATER HARDNESS), or water that is too acidic or corrosive, causing leaks in copper piping (see WATER ACIDITY CORROSIVITY).
Watch out: this discussion and the list of water tests below focused on well water quality - what is "in" the well water that may make it unsafe or unpalatable to drink. Other important water conditions, such as water that is too high in mineral content, clogging pipes and water heaters (see MEASURE WATER HARDNESS), or water that is too acidic or corrosive, causing leaks in copper piping (see CORROSIVITY or ACIDITY of WATER) often need attention. And at least as important is the question is "does the well provide enough water" - a topic discussed at WELL FLOW RATE and at WELL FLOW TEST PROCEDURE
See our complete list of water tests in the links at the end of this article. Excerpts are just below.
Readers should also see our detailed article WATER TESTING ADVICE for home buyers and building owners: water contaminants, water test procedures, well shock procedures, preventing drinking water contamination, and CHEATING ON WATER TESTS in that document.
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