Individual water systems, such as privately owned wells, don’t fall under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards that protect public drinking water systems. As the owner of a private water system, it is your responsibility to ensure that your water is safe to consume. Here are some top tips to help you tell when to get your well tested!
What To Test For
The following is a list of water quality indicators (WQIs) and contaminants that you should evaluate in your water. A WQI test determines the presence and quantity of specific microorganisms in water. WQIs are not usually the cause of illness; however, they are simple to detect. Their existence could signal the presence of sewage and other disease-causing microorganisms from human and/or animal excrement.
Examples of Contaminants
Here are some of the most common contaminants that you might find in residential homes around the country:
Nitrate can be present in a variety of foods, and high quantities of nitrate in drinking water can make people sick. Animal waste, private septic systems, wastewater, flooding sewers, contaminated stormwater runoff, fertilizers, agricultural runoff, and decaying plants can all contribute to nitrate in your well water. The geology of the ground around your well plays a role in its presence as well.
VOCs are industrial and fuel-related compounds that, at certain concentrations, can be harmful to one’s health. Depending on where you reside, you’ll want to test for different VOCs. To find out if VOCs are an issue in your area, contact your local health or environmental department or the EPA. Benzene, carbon tetrachloride, toluene, trichloroethylene, and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) are some VOCs to inquire about testing for.
When Test Your Well
Check your well at least once a year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. You should also test for additional pollutants if you suspect them. However, because these tests can be costly, take your time identifying probable issues. The best place to begin is to speak with a local specialist, such as the health department, about toxins of concern. If any of the following apply to you, you should test your well:
- You’ve had issues in the vicinity of your well (i.e., flooding, land disturbances, and nearby waste disposal sites)
- You have recently repaired or replaced any part of your well system
- You sense a difference in the quality of the water (i.e., taste, color, and odor)
With these top tips on when to get your well tested, you can keep the well on your property safe. If you are planning on installing a well, make sure you know the common misconceptions about them and what you should know about owning a home with a well.