You may think that the water in your private well is safe. But what you may not know is that the water may contain cancer-causing and toxic contaminants. Many of these don't have any smell, taste or color. So they can easily be present in the water without your knowledge.
That is why it is important to get the water tested at a lab. You owe this to your family. And while most states do not have any mandatory requirement to have your well water tested all state bodies of environmental sciences highly recommend it.
There are several accredited labs that carry out drinking water analysis for private wells. Here's a look at what you should do on your part.
When to Test Your Private Well Water
When you are purchasing a new home with a private well, it is always best to get the water tested before you buy it. Subsequently, you should carry out tests at intervals of a few years. Well water qualities are usually stable, and any changes occur slowly. If the well is well-constructed and the home is in a safe location, then you can safely get the water tested once every 3 or 5 years with the following tests:
Standard analysis for chloride, arsenic, iron, lead, bacteria, manganese, pH, nitrate, copper, fluoride, sodium and hardness Radiological analysis for radon, uranium and analytical gross alpha.
Tests for Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs.
You will need more frequent tests if the following conditions exist:
Heavy development and land use with hazardous chemicals. Recent well repairs or construction. Always get the well tested for bacteria after any repairs or plumbing changes, but only after you have flushed the water system well. High levels of any of the above contaminants in previous tests. Visible variations in quality of water, such as an odd taste or a cloudy appearance after heavy rains.
Types of Tests
There are several types of tests that you can carry out on your private well water. Here we take a look at the basic tests that are cost-effective and enough to give you a general idea of the water's quality.
Standard Analysis: The most common contaminants (as listed above) are identified with this test. Some of the contaminants may actually be harmful, while others only affect the taste and smell of the water.
Radiological Analysis: Radiological analysis will tell you if there are any radioactive elements dissolved in the water. This test is especially recommended in areas that are known to have high levels of radon in groundwater.
VOC tests: Volatile organic compounds that contaminate water mostly include compounds related to gasoline. These include benzene and MtBE as well as industrial solvents.
Other tests: Depending on where you live, there may be other tests that you should do. These include tests for herbicides, pesticides or synthetic organic compounds. Note that these tests can be expensive and performed only at select labs. You should do them if you find your water has high nitrate or nitrite levels or if you know that large amounts of pesticides have been used near the well.