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.

How often should I test my water?

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 Comprehensive Scan.

How do I know which test to choose?

Our Comprehensive Scan 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.

Where should I collect my water sample?

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
What kind of container should I use for my water 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.

How should I collect my water sample?
  • 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.
How much water do I need for a test sample?

About 125 ml (4.5 ounces) of water is adequate for most tests. Testing for Volatile Organic Compounds (as in the Comprehensive Scan) requires at least 40 ml (1.5 ounces.). The Health Scan 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.

Before taking a water sample, do I need to disinfect the faucet?

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.

Should I run the water prior to taking a water sample?

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.

I’m taking a sample from a new well. What should I do?

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 Comprehensive Scan and keep pumping until you obtain the desired water quality.

How do I get my sample to ETR Labs?

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.

Do I need to keep my water sample cold during shipment?

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

How long does it take to get my results?

Some single-parameter testing can take as little as one day to complete. Results from our Basic Scan, Standard Scan and Comprehensive Scan all are typically sent out within two business days. The Health Scan, 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.

How do I view my report?

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

When will my report be mailed?

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 Health Scan. 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 Health Scan will help you determine what the problem is.

Why does my water smell swampy?

We find that microorganisms are typically the cause for odors. We suggest the Health Scan for this concern.

My bank wants me to test my water. What analysis should I do?

Our Comprehensive Scan will provide the results your bank needs.

What problems can be caused by naturally-occurring elements in my water?
  • 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 Comprehensive Scan for these concerns.

I’m concerned about a septic system leaking contaminants into my well. What analysis do I need to do?

You need tests for Total Coliform, Fecal/E. coli, Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia and Volatile Organic Compounds. The Standard, Comprehensive, and Health Scans all include these tests.

What is hardness or hard water and how does it affect my drinking water?

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 Comprehensive Scan for these concerns.