When To Test Water Quality for a Private Water Well

Water testing is a necessary responsibility if you get your homes water from a private well. Contaminants in drinking water have been linked to health issues like cancer, and some may pose a serious threat to health. Often, contaminants may have no odor, taste, color or smell and are only detectable through thorough laboratory testing.

For New Hampshire residents, there are no State or Federal requirements for testing a privately owned water system. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and the EPA recommends that all homeowners who draw water from a private well undergo regular water testing for contaminants.

How Are Water Wells Compromised?

Well water begins as rain or snow, which percolates through the ground to an aquifer. As it passes through the soil, it can dissolve minerals that are present above or underground. Some contaminants like bacteria, arsenic, radon and other minerals are naturally occurring in soil and rock. Other contaminants are produced by human activities like improper waste disposal, road salting, agriculture or fuel spills. Even typical residential activities like lawn fertilization and pesticide use can contaminate ground water when improperly applied. That’s why taking precautions to protect your water source from contamination is important.

Recommended Well Water Tests

Consult a certified laboratory or your well water specialist to determine cost and necessity. It’s recommended that you test your well at least annually. Here is a partial list of tests that should be conducted annually. It may vary based upon specific geology and region.
Standard Analysis - This basic test checks for the most common contaminants based upon your location and geology.

•    Radiological Analysis – New Hampshire’s geology contains several naturally occurring radioactive elements that can end up in aquifers through natural processes. A basic radiological test will check for uranium, analytic gross alpha and the common element radon found in soil that contains high levels of granite.
•    Radon is a very common element in well water in New Hampshire, and some municipalities require annual testing for radon. There are currently no Federal standards for radon in drinking water, but the DES estimates that as many as one-third of New Hampshire wells may be affected.
•    Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – The most common of the VOCs come from gasoline compounds such as MtBE, benzene, and industrial solvents. MtBE can be present even in remote areas.
•    Additional Water Tests – Circumstances may require you to have other types of water testing performed that is not listed here such as testing for arsenic, nitrates, and nitrites, pesticides or synthetic organic compounds. While these tests may not be available at all labs, the best solution is to consult your well water specialist.

When To Test Your Water Well

If you are considering the purchase of a home with a private well, water testing should be completed before purchase. If you already own a home with a private well, annual testing is recommended. Water quality in most wells is stable. However, if any of the following conditions occur, more frequent testing is advised:

• Heavy development with land uses that require hazardous chemicals, such as agricultural areas
• Areas with recent well construction activities or repairs
• Elevated contaminant concentrations found by previous testing (conduct additional testing after remedying the problem
• If you notice changes in quality such as foul taste, odor, or cloudiness
• After a major natural event such as a flood or forest fire

Following these basic guidelines can help to ensure that your drinking water will remain fresh and clean for many years. Consult with an expert at Skillings and Sons if you have any additional questions about water quality.