While there are more than 20 million households that rely on well water, not many of these households get their well water tested on a regular basis. One survey showed that only about half of these households had tested their water in the prior decade. And how many had tested their water in the prior year? Only about 10%.
A lack of testing means that many millions of people could be drinking water that has become contaminated with bacteria, industrial chemicals, agricultural waste or toxic minerals and metals. The only way to tell what might be in the water is to get an accurate water test done.
Anyone who relies on a well should be familiar with the top eight times that it is most important to get their water tested.
What Are These Eight Times?
- Once a year: Set a memorable time to get an annual test done. Spring is best. Well water quality can change quickly, should there be an industrial or agricultural spill in the area. Industrial chemicals can even enter the aquifer miles away and make their way into your well. Any damage to the well cap can also permit insects or small animals to enter the well, resulting in bacterial, fungal or viral contamination. An annual test will catch these changes.
- Construction in the area: If there has been construction near the well or anywhere on the property, the well water should be tested. In many states, there are regulations related to how near or far from the well any construction should be located.
- Oil or gas drilling: There are more than a million oil and gas wells drilled across the U.S. Some of these are near water wells. Contamination of the private water well can result from fracking, stormwater runoff from the drilling site, or disposal of toxic drilling wastes into pits near the drills.
- Empty home: If a home has been unused for weeks or more, Legionella or other bacteria can accumulate in the water system. Toxic metals in the water may also be elevated. Test the water before using it.
- Well repair: When well construction or repair have occurred, test the water before beginning to use it. Whenever the well is opened for maintenance or repair, there is a risk of contamination.
- Flood or serious storm: Well caps are supposed to be located 12 to 18 inches above the surface of the ground to prevent surface water infiltration. Not all wells are properly built and so can be contaminated at any time there is an excessive amount of water moving across the property. Wells that were properly built can be compromised if there is an exceptional flood or storm. The best thing to do after a serious storm is to have the well inspected by a professional well contractor. Minimally, a well must be thoroughly disinfected if there is a chance that the well was compromised during the storm. Water from the well should be tested after disinfection to ensure it is safe to drink.
- New baby or immunocompromised person in the home: Longtime residents will have become accustomed to minerals and other substances in the well but newcomers to the home may have a harder time. In particular, new babies should be provided with the purest water possible. Before the baby’s arrival, test the water and remedy any deficiencies. Do the same for any immunocompromised person who will be living in the home. This could include someone being treated for cancer, a person diagnosed with HIV, or a person who has had an organ transplant.
- Change in taste or smell: If the water tastes or smells different, that’s a sign to test the water immediately. There are some changes that are harmless but you won’t know until you get the results of the water test back. At any rate, you may need to disinfect the well, repair it or change your filtration system.
Start with a Comprehensive Test
The simplest rule of thumb is to choose a comprehensive well water test the first time you test a well. Then follow the guidelines above to know when to order a basic well water test. By following this procedure, you have your best assurance of healthy well water.
Sometimes, a basic well water test will not fully answer your question about why there’s a problem with your water. ETR Laboratories can help you find the right answer. Choose one of our water tests and then contact us when you get your results. We’ll review them with you and help you understand what’s happening and what further testing, repair or disinfection is needed to return your well to ideal operation. Call us at (800) 344-9977 if you need help choosing the right test.