Warm spring weather means opening the windows, cleaning out the garage and sweeping away the dirt that gathered throughout the winter. For homeowners who draw water from a private well, spring is also the best time to perform your well’s annual check-up and water test.
In New Hampshire and in many other states, there are no regulations regarding the quality of water in private drinking wells. This means homeowners are responsible for their own water supply. Part of this task includes inspecting the above ground parts of the well water system. In some cases, homeowners will also want to test their water for potential contaminants.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend examining different parts of the well water system to make sure it is functioning properly and does not show signs of contamination or deterioration. Check the outside of the well for signs of cracks, leaks or deterioration of the well cap and casing. Well caps should also be at least one foot above the ground and wells should not be surrounded by standing water.
Check the well pump and other mechanical elements are working as they should.
Homeowners will also want to make sure all fertilizers, chemicals, paint, motor oil and other chemicals are stores as far from the well as possible. If the well is older than 20 years, the average life of a well, consult a well servicing company, like Skillings & Sons, to make sure it is functioning properly.
Wells in New England can have high rates of arsenic, radon and MtBE contamination. State agencies, like the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, recommend well testing every 3 to 5 years to monitor for these contaminants. The EPA and CDC suggest testing every year in the spring for total coliform bacteria, nitrate, total dissolved solids and pH levels.
Here are some of the contaminants you will want to test for:
Total coliform bacteria are microbes found in the digestive systems of warm-blooded animals, as well as in soil, on plants and in surface water. Coliform bacteria aren’t typically the kind that will make you sick, but a high coliform count indicates there are likely other harmful bacteria, parasites and viruses in the water.
Testing for pH level shows homeowners how acidic or basic their water is. When the pH level is out of balance it can change how the water looks and tastes. While this may seem like just a nuisance, pH levels could indicate corrosive water, which will damage pipes, cause heavy metals like lead to leach from pipes, and can possibly make you sick.
Nitrate is a naturally-occurring contaminant found in many foods, but high levels of nitrate in drinking water can be bad for your health. Nitrate originates from animal and farm waste, flooded or malfunctioning sewers and septic systems, wastewater and even decaying plants. Although nitrate contamination often depends on the geology in your area, all wells should be tested for nitrate.
Other tests can also be performed at this time, especially if there are other suspected contaminants. A volatile organic compound test, for instance, might be warranted if there is known MtBE contamination in your area. Finding out what contaminants could pose a risk to your well water, contact your state well regulatory agency or local board of health. It’s also a good idea to test for other contaminants if you know there are problems with well water in your area, if you have experienced contamination problems in the past, if you’ve repaired the well or if you notice a change in water quality.
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