Decoding Well Water Tests: Next Steps to Ensure Water Safety

Determining the source of well water problems is not always straightforward. Solving a well water problem fully sometimes requires detective work by knowledgeable people. That’s why we offer our water test customers consultations on their water test results. We know how difficult it is to make decisions on what action to take after you get the test results unless you have years of experience reading these results.

We are also happy to counsel people on which tests are right for their situations. The test you should choose if your well is new or new to you is different than the test you should choose if you’re doing an annual water test. Or if your water quality has recently changed or acquired an odor.

We wanted to share some of our experience with you to give you insight into how different situations call for different types of water testing.

Choosing the Right Well Water Tests for New Homes or Annual Tests

This one is pretty simple. When you have a new home or you’ve just had a new well dug, you should choose the most comprehensive test available. For example, we have one test that looks for 249 different substances. There are more than 150 industrial chemicals and semi-volatile organic compounds included in this test. For a first test, you’d want to rule out any toxic chemicals that might exist on your property because of prior industrial uses of the land, including use as a dumping ground for chemicals.

If that first test result is pretty good and no significant contamination was found, you could use a more limited test for an annual checkup of your well quality.

Using Well Water Tests to Determine the Right Filtration or Treatment

If you are planning to install a filtration or water treatment system, it’s important to know what substances you want to filter out of your water before you buy one. Different filters will address different contaminants. Without the right advice, you might choose a filtration system that is more expensive than you really need. So a water test prior to filtration installation could save you thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, if you install a filter that does not remove the contaminants that are most important to you, then you may have wasted your investment.

For example, some people choose carbon or activated carbon filters for their homes or kitchens. Many of these filters will remove chlorine and improve the taste and smell of water. But they might not remove unwanted toxins like arsenic, fluoride, nitrates and perchlorate.

Reverse osmosis systems are effective in removing calcium and magnesium that cause scale buildup on plumbing fixtures. But an RO system may not effectively remove microorganisms, chlorine by-products or radon from your water.

Which Water Test Results Are More Important Than Others?

Reviewing your water test results with an expert can help you identify which contaminants urgently need to be eliminated and which are not serious problems. Of course, those that affect the short-term or long-term health of those living in the home will be more urgent. Other contaminants that just cause spotting on dishes are not as critical but could cause problems with dishwashers and water heaters down the road.

If, for example, the water in your region is acidic, the water will tend to gradually dissolve plumbing components in the home. This process adds molecules of toxic metals to the water your family drinks. Common metals added to household water include lead, copper or zinc. For infants, lead and copper are particularly dangerous.

PFAS are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, industrial chemicals used to manufacture non-stick cookware, among many, many other items. It’s possible that hundreds of millions of American homes receive water that is contaminated with PFAS. The consumption of one of these chemicals (PFOA) is associated with cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis, plus hypertension and preeclampsia among pregnant women. If these substances were in your water well, you’d want to know right now and you’d want to know which filters were best at removing them.

What is Causing Your Contamination?

In some situations, your first test might need to be followed by a second test to enable you to pinpoint the cause of your contamination. Bacteria, fungi, excess salt or the presence of pesticides may all point at different problems with your well. Understanding the result can help you identify problems like:

  • Leaking septic system nearby
  • Damaged well cap
  • Cracked well casing
  • Insect or animal infestation inside the well
  • Acidic water leaching minerals into water
  • Industrial spill near the home
  • Manure spills nearby

With a little expert advice, the right tests in the right sequence can help you solve your water problems without wasting money or time. Call us at (800) 344-9977 to get started on your own water tests. We’ll be happy to review the results with you and help you understand what’s serious and what’s not.