Questions About Water Testing

Why should I test my water?

You may have a specific concern such as a change in taste or odor, or there may have been a recent environmental incident in the vicinity of your home. In addition, many lenders now require water testing before they approve home loans if there is a well on the property. Environmental Testing & Research Laboratories can administer the appropriate test for your specific needs.

We suggest regular analysis of your water to keep informed about your water condition. Most experts on well water suggest annual testing to ensure your water quality hasn’t changed. And while public water is usually safe at its source, old water distribution systems and plumbing systems can contaminate your water. Regular testing ensures you receive high-quality water. For your first test and a second test a year later, we recommend our Premium Water Test.

Our Premium Water Test detects commonly found contaminants and is usually sufficient when there are no specific concerns. Depending on your individual concerns, other tests may be advisable. Visit our Water Tests page for more information on our scans. If you have any questions, please call us and ask to speak with one of our testing experts.

Samples are best taken in the area from which people drink the most water. In most households, that’s the kitchen.

Steps to take:

  • Remove any mixers or purifiers from the tap you plan to use
  • Leave the aerator if that’s all there is on the tap
  • Let cold water run for about five minutes to flush standing water in the pipes
  • Collect your sample

Use a sterile glass or plastic bottle. If you are testing for Volatile Organic Compounds, use a glass vial. We suggest that you contact us for sterile sample bottles. As soon as an order is placed for a water test, we will send you the appropriate sterile containers for the tests you have ordered.

  • Fill the container slowly to eliminate air bubbles. Some air bubbles may gather after the container is closed but these do not affect your sample.
  • Do not touch the inside of the container or lid so you do not contaminate the sample.
  • Secure the lid tightly.
  • For local samples, deliver by hand.
  • For remote samples, send by overnight or second-day mail.

About 125 ml (4.5 ounces) of water is adequate for most tests. Testing for Volatile Organic Compounds (as in the Premium Water Test) requires at least 40 ml (1.5 ounces.). The Ultimate Water Test or testing for pesticides and herbicides requires at least one liter. For the Environmental Scan, we will require all the above plus an additional liter of water in a plastic container.

Many people wipe the faucet with alcohol or run a lit match around the end of it. These are common procedures to kill any bacteria that may be present, but if you fill your containers correctly, there is no need to do either of these.

Running your water for five minutes is adequate for a house that is currently being lived in under normal circumstances. For homes that have been unoccupied for several weeks or longer, run the water for several hours. If you’re concerned about running your well dry, contact the well installer or a plumber for assistance.

This is normally done by the well driller or well pump installer. If you decide to do it yourself, you should plan on taking several samples to ensure an accurate test. It often takes several days of pumping to eliminate the silt and residue from a new well. Perform the Premium Water Test and keep pumping until you obtain the desired water quality.

If you live in our local area, you can hand-deliver your sample to our lab. You can also send by overnight or second-day delivery. In special cases, overnight or same-day delivery may be required. When you order from this web site, we will send your sample containers in a prepaid-postage box for shipment back to us.

Cold shipping is only needed in special cases. Check Customer Service at ETR Labs if you have questions or concerns in this area.

Some single-parameter testing can take as little as one day to complete. Results from our Basic and Premium Water Test all are typically sent out within two business days. The Ultimate Water Test, Environmental Scan and Advanced Environmental Health Scan can take up to five business days.

Samples arriving after noon will be processed the following day. Because we process every sample as quickly as technically possible, there is no way to accelerate this process.

We can e-mail or fax your report, if you like. A copy of your report is always mailed to you.

Your report will be mailed on the business day following the day it is prepared.

Questions about Water

Why does my water smell like rotten eggs (sulfur)?

This odor is typically caused by microorganisms. The most cost-effective way to find out what is causing this odor is our Ultimate Water Test. This test will identify which organisms are causing the smell.

When your hot water is affected, it could be because microorganisms are growing in your hot water tank. This can happen when your hot water temperature is on a low setting or if the organisms are coming in your water supply. The Ultimate Water Test will help you determine what the problem is.

We find that microorganisms are typically the cause for odors. We suggest the Ultimate Water Test for this concern.

Our Premium Water Test will provide the results your bank needs.

  • Orange, red or brown stains on the dishwasher, toilets and other plumbing fixtures
  • Blue-green stains on the tub, toilets and other plumbing fixtures
  • White powdery substance on ice cubes and/or ice maker
  • Black or gray stains on laundry

All these problems can be caused by various naturally-occurring elements. We suggest the Premium Water Test for these concerns.

You need tests for Total Coliform, Fecal/E. coli, Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia and Volatile Organic Compounds. The Basic, Premium, and Ultimate Water Tests all include these tests.

Hardness is a term used to indicate the presence of calcium and/or magnesium in water, along with other elements. Hard water is not dangerous, but can cause white spots on glasses washed in your dishwasher, poor sudsing of laundry soaps and mineral deposits on your plumbing which will eventually restrict water flow. We suggest our Premium Water Test for these concerns.