Private well water is oftentimes considered crisper and tastier than its city equivalent. That being said, it is also more susceptible to certain types of contamination and should be checked every so often to ensure the health of you, your family, and your community.
According to California Laboratory Services Inc, which provides environmental testing laboratory services, approximately 13 million households rely on some sort of private well for drinking water in the United States alone. Unlike other types of water, the EPA does not regulate or standardize wells, so it is up to the owners to test the safety of their water.
Why Do I Need to Test My Well Water?
There are many reasons, with safety being by far the most important. Using proper testing allows you to know if there are any problems with your water supply. From here, an appropriate treatment can be used to fix it. Having a certified laboratory look at your water is the only true way to determine if your water is safe to consume.
There are many different types of harmful organisms that can get into your water supply that are completely invisible to the naked eye. Bacteria, parasites, and viruses are a constant threat and can often go undetected, especially since they rarely make water taste bad. Other things like chemical contaminants can wash into your water supply and cause numerous long-term problems.
What Are Some of the Tests I Should Have Done?
There are a large number of tests that can be done on your water to ensure that it is safe to drink. For instance, there are tests related to fluoride, sulfate, ions, coliform bacteria, nitrate, total dissolved solids, and basic water potability.
Probably the best part is to start with a basic water potability test, as this covers a little bit of everything. This specific test provides an overview of sodium, chloride, and fluoride levels, along with other things like water hardness.
Many communities that rely on well water offer free screenings, and sometimes have “Test Your Well” events to get people involved. Other than this, you can get into contact with a local or state Human Services Department to find a certified laboratory in your area.
It’s highly recommended to get your well water tested at least once a year. Shallower areas that are close to surface water should be tested on a seasonal basis, as they are more likely to have some sort of chemical or bacterial runoff.
What Other Contaminants Should I Be Aware Of?
Nitrate is an extremely common chemical that is found in groundwater. While fairly harmless in a small amount, in high concentrations it can be dangerous for children under six months of age, as nitrates inhibit red blood cells from carrying oxygen.
Large amounts of sulfate can cause numerous gastrointestinal problems, becoming an effective laxative. Fluoride is a little more complicated, as it is beneficial in small amounts but excessive amounts can actually cause the thing it prevents: tooth decay.
If you or a professionals suspect that are other chemicals in your water supply outside the typical ones, it is possible to get this tested as well. Sometimes water can be tested for things like pesticides, arsenic, selenium, and uranium.
How Do I Prevent My Water from Becoming Contaminated?
Testing is good, but it is a fairly reactionary method; well owners should instead focus on preventing any contamination from happening in the first place. Things like sloping the area around the well to prevent runoff and avoiding any pollutants can go a long way.
Never dispose of any harsh chemicals, petroleum products, or solvents near or around a well. Make sure to make a habit of checking the well for any problems, such as a broken cap, cracking of surface seals, or a corroded well casing to name a few.
Natural disasters, especially floods, can have a tremendous impact on the safety of your drinking water. It’s important to contact a professional if there is a possibility that you have flood water in your well so they can properly pump it out.