When To Test Well Water and What Contaminants Should You Test For

As the owner of a private water well, you are responsible for the quality and yield of your water supply. An annual well inspection and water testing are a necessary practice that can help you to identify potential issues before they become critical. It may be inconvenient to have a well tank or pump fail, but more importantly, the safety of your family depends on what is found in your drinking water. The National Ground Water Association (NGWA), as well as the EPA, recommends annual water testing for bacteria, nitrates and any contaminants that may be found in local water supplies. While annual water testing is necessary, there may be signs that indicate more frequently testing is required.

These can include:

• Any changes in the taste, color or odor in your water.

• If a problem such as flooding or a broken well cap occurs.

• Your well has a history of bacterial contamination

• Your septic system has recently malfunctioned

• If your family has a history of frequent or recurrent gastrointestinal illness

• If you have an infant or young children living in the home

• To monitor the performance of newly installed treatment systems

Contaminants To Test For

Speak with your local health or environmental department, or contact Skillings & Sons and ask for a local water treatment specialist. They will be able to identify and recommend the types and frequency of testing specific to your geographic location. To help interpret your test results and determine what is an aesthetic issue or what may pose a health risk, consult the lab that ran the tests or your local health department.


Total Coliform Bacteria – This test is an indicator commonly used to determine bacterial contamination. It can detect possible contamination from human or animal wastes. Total coliform tests for a broad range of bacterium, most of which pose no potential health risk. The presence of coliform can be an indicator of worsening water quality and may require further testing and treatment.

Nitrates – Fertilizers, septic system failure, and leaking sewage lines are common sources of nitrates in water. Nitrates also occur naturally from the breakdown of nitrogen present in soil and rocks. High levels can indicate the presence of other contaminants and are of particular risk to infants, the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems.

Other typical tests can include pH, water hardness, heavy metals, iron, manganese, sulfites and other contaminants that can cause problems with plumbing, staining water appearance, and odor.

Speak With A Professional About Specific Local Contaminants
Certain areas of the country may have localized issues that should be tested for. In New Hampshire, two contaminants that may be present are radon and arsenic. Both of these are found naturally in the soil and rocks present in New Hampshire’s particular geology. The can also stem from manmade causes such as pesticides and sewage.

Radon is an odorless and colorless gas that is present in soil that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the ground. Exposure to radon can come from two sources; the air in your home, which seeps through your foundation and your well water. Arsenic is also a naturally occurring element found in New Hampshire that can seep into ground water supplies and become a health risk if high concentrations are ingested over time.

Speak with a water well professional at Skillings & Sons to determine if additional water testing is required for volatile organic compounds, heavy metals or other contaminants.

Annual testing can uncover potential problems before they become critical or threaten health. Fortunately, treatment options are available that can mitigate risk and remove contaminants from your water supply. Speak with your well water professional, they can help you interpret your test results and offer you affordable treatment options.