As a homeowner with well water, you should have your water supply tested on a regular basis to ensure that it is safe and free of contaminants. Bacteria and chemicals can seep into your drinking water without altering its color, flavor or odor. These threats can occur due to runoff from de-icing, sewage disposal and even animal waste or pesticide treatments. Here's a look at the bacterial concerns with drinking water and what you can do about it.
One of the most important things you can test your well water for is bacterial contamination. Coliform is a common bacterial contaminant that thrives in soil and warm-blooded animals. When you drill a new well, and once a year thereafter, you should have the water tested for bacterial presence.
How to Collect a Test Sample
To get an accurate test result from the local water testing laboratory, you need to be sure that the sample is collected properly. Get a specimen bottle from the water testing laboratory so that you can be sure it is sterilized. It should also be treated with a preservative.
Turn on the tap and allow the water to run for ten minutes to flush the system before taking your sample. This ensures a water sample that isn't stagnant, so you'll get a more accurate reading. Slow the water flow so that you can fill the bottle without splashing all over the sides or the inside.
Don't touch the rim or the inside of the bottle with your hands – you could contaminate it. Wear gloves if possible while you collect the sample. Run the water directly into the bottle, and fill it about three-quarters of the way, or to the fill line if there is one. Refrigerate the sample, or keep it in a cooler during transport. Take it directly to the laboratory for testing.
You can also have a professional water testing company such as A B Hoxie come to your home to test the water for you.
Safe drinking water should test free of coliform bacteria. If the initial testing shows the presence of bacteria, you should repeat the test to be sure that it wasn't an errant contamination. If the second test confirms its presence, you'll need to treat your well.
If there's coliform bacteria in your well water, work with a water specialist to treat the source. Chemical treatments or chlorination are the best approach, and these treatments will actually cover the water, the pump and your pipes. A few weeks after the treatment, test the water again to ensure that the bacteria hasn't returned. Then, plan water testing twice a year for routine monitoring.
The more proactive you are about your water testing, the greater confidence you can have in the safety of your drinking water. In addition to routine testing, filtration in the lines can help you keep minerals and contaminants at bay. Test your water regularly and monitor the results for any changes that may need attention.