Annual Testing of Your Well Water will Inform You of Contaminants
Clean drinking water is something most people take for granted in New England. The region has some of the cleanest sources of water in the world, but contaminants, both naturally occurring and man-made, can find their way into water supplies.
Water from public systems are highly regulated and frequently tested. Massachusetts well water quality is regulated by the local board of health, but there are no state regulations in New Hampshire requiring homeowners test their well water. However, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recommends that all homeowners with private wells test their water periodically to make sure the quality is high.
What to test well water for
Standard analysis is a basic test that covers the most common contaminants found in drinking water. Some of these pose a health risk, while others only affect the taste or odor of water. Once you receive your results, you should contact a water systems professional to discuss what water treatment options are available. A standard well water analysis includes testing for the following substances: arsenic, bacteria, chloride, copper, fluoride, hardness, iron, lead, manganese, nitrate, nitrite, sodium, uranium and pH.
Radon Water Contamination
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is commonly found in bedrock throughout New Hampshire and affects approximately one-third of private wells the state. There are no state or federal radon standards, only suggested action levels. Tests for radon are recommended and could be required by your town or your mortgage lender.
Organic Chemical Water Contamination
Volatile organic chemicals can originate from manufacturing plants or gas stations. The most common VOC is MtBE, which was once an additive in gasoline. It does not easily break down and travels quickly in water supplies. It has been found in well water in even remote areas.
Skillings & Sons can help advise you on proper testing techniques to get the most accurate results. You can even pick up and drop off testing kits at a Skillings & Sons office.
When to test well water
Testing private wells should start before you purchase the home and continue throughout home ownership. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend checking your well every spring for mechanical problems and testing for contaminants once a year. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services says these tests can be spread out over significant periods of time since a change to water quality often happens slowly.
You should test for bacteria, nitrate and nitrite every year because they can become hazardous to one’s health more quickly.
You should test for the following contaminants every three to five years: arsenic, chloride, copper, fluoride, hardness, iron, lead, manganese, sodium, volatile organic chemicals, and pH levels. You should also have a radon check every three to five years, which includes checking for uranium.
There are some situations in which you should consider testing more frequently.
• Regular use of hazardous chemicals nearby
• Heavily developed areas or industrial land uses nearby
• Recent well construction or repairs. This can leave wells susceptible to bacterial contamination.
• Earlier testing revealed elevated levels of contaminants
• A noticeable change in water quality, especially after a heavy rain or if water quality had always been good before
• An unexplained cloudy appearance or funny taste
What the water test results mean
If a contaminant is found in your drinking water, it does not always mean there is a problem. If the levels exceed the state or federal health standards, you will likely need to install a water treatment system. There are some resources available to help you decide which treatment option is best. A Skillings & Sons water systems specialists can also provide a consultation and possible treatment options, based on your individual situation.