Choosing a Laboratory For Well Water Testing
Water Testing Laboratories Are Not All The Same
All laboratories and not created equal. The best ones follow rigorous protocols to ensure that the test results they produce are accurate, precise and reliable. Each state has a process that laboratories must complete to become state certified to perform these specific testing procedures. Because there are a number of different contaminants and a single test cannot detect for all possible contaminants. Many tests require specialized equipment, and most water testing labs are not certified to test for every potential substance.
A certified laboratory is capable of providing error-free, accurate results. Using a state certified laboratory reduces the possibility that you'll need to retest, which saves time and money. Many water testing laboratories offer homeowners testing packages that include tests for specific local water conditions. Not all water testing is health related. For example, high levels of calcium, magnesium or iron, are more of a nuisance than a health risk but can still impact your water system.
This is one reason why an accurate test is essential before purchasing any water treatment equipment. It's also important to understand that contaminants can vary depending upon the time of year. All well water is a mix of various minerals that can vary depending on rates of recharge or nearby pumping and as a result, water composition can change seasonally, throughout the year.
What To Test Well Water For
The Environmental Protection Agency has identified health risks for primary drinking water contaminants and levels and has set legally enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) for public water supplies. Depending on local conditions, your laboratory may test for contaminants including coliform bacteria, nitrate, arsenic, volatile organic compounds, pesticides and herbicides, lead and copper. The EPA has also developed standard testing procedures that laboratories must use for each primary drinking water contaminants.
New Hampshire's Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Health or Department of Environmental Quality in other states will have a list of accredited water testing laboratories. Many states maintain this information on the Internet. The telephone numbers for these state agencies are available on the states websites. Alternatively, the American Groundwater Trust has a list of accreditation agency telephone numbers.
Along with state certification, local Boards of Health may also have requirements laboratories must follow. It's important to check with your local BOH to ensure all testing requirements are met. Most states require that a water sample is tested for coliform bacteria and nitrates before a property can be sold. Some states are also beginning to require additional testing for VOCs, arsenic, fluoride, and radon as part of any property sale.
Hiring The Right Water Testing Laboratory
When seeking a certified laboratory solicit quotes from at least three separate labs. Some will send a technician to your home to collect the sample. This may or may not be included in the cost. Laboratories will typically provide sample containers and sampling instructions as part of their
Ask about the “turn-around” time for receiving results. The laboratory will also provide a report of the results that should include an explanation of what the results mean or contact information for a representative who can help you to interpret them. Your local water professional can also assist you with setting up water testing, understand the results. They can offer you affordable treatment options if it becomes necessary.
Skillings & Sons recommends that well owners test their water at least once a year for coliform bacteria and nitrates if fertilizer is used on the property or if there are cultivated fields nearby. It is also suggested that you test for arsenic due to the high levels of this water contaminant in Southern New Hampshire and Northern Massachusetts. If you have any questions on water testing, contact us or swing by our office to pick up a free water testing kit. Your home's water well is a valuable asset. Regular testing can help you to maintain water quality. A healthy well can provide you and your family with plenty of clean, healthy water for years if properly maintained.