Water testing important to monitoring water quality

National Ground Water Awareness Week is a good time to remind household well owners that testing the water is one of their most important responsibilities.

Some prudent questions include:
  • How often should I test?
  • What should I test?
  • How do I interpret results?
  • What if there is a health concern?
You do not need to be an expert on water testing. There are some basic steps to reducing risks to your drinking water, according to the Ground Water Protection Council and the National Ground Water Association.

First, determine if your well is clean. A dirty well can create an environment suitable to bacterial growth and impair effective disinfection.

A qualified water well system contractor can determine if your water well system needs cleaning.

Second, well owners should test their water annually for bacteria, nitrates, and anything of local concern. The water should be tested more frequently if there is:
  • Any change in the water’s taste, odor, or appearance
  • A problem such as a broken well cap or a new contamination source
  • A family member or houseguest who has recurrent incidents of gastrointestinal illness
  • A pregnant woman or infant living in the home
  • A need to monitor the efficiency and performance of home water treatment equipment.
Contaminants of local concern include landfills, industrial sites, hazardous substance spills, or improper disposal of hazardous household wastes. Some naturally occurring contaminants, such as arsenic and radon, are area specific.

To determine what might be of local concern, ask a qualified local water well system contractor or water treatment company, a certified water testing laboratory, or local health or environmental health officials.

When seeking a qualified water testing lab, contact your state or local health department, or check the “Water Quality” section of NGWA’s Web site, www.wellowner.org. Then click on “Water Testing.” If local labs do not test for substances you wish to check, there are national water testing labs that may be able to help such as National Testing Labs (www.ntllabs.com) and Underwriters Laboratories (www.ul.com).

Upon receiving test results, ask the lab if there are any contaminants that present a health risk—or check with the appropriate state or local agency involved in public health. You also can check your test results against the U.S. EPA’s maximum contaminant levels on its Web site (www.epa.gov).

Also, share the lab results with your water well system contractor, who can consider whether a water quality issue may be related to the well system.

Third, should any contaminants above levels of health concern remain after proper maintenance, it does not mean you cannot use the ground water. Talk to a qualified water well system contractor about water treatment devices to address the specific water quality issues. The professional can advise you on how to proceed.

When considering a water treatment device, make sure its specifications match up to the substances and concentrations you wish to treat. Also, check whether the treatment device is certified by a nationally accredited testing lab.

Related web sites include:
the National Ground Water Association at www.ngwa.org
the Ground Water Protection Council at www.gwpc.org
the Groundwater Foundation at http://www.groundwater.org/