Monday, May 25, 2009

Test Your Private Well

When I purchased my home from a bank, one of my contingencies was water quality. I had the right to exit the purchase if the water quality did not meet US EPA Safe Drinking Water Standards. All we could negotiate was 12 day contingency period and in reality I had less time than that. The power needed to be turned on to operate the water pump, the hot water heater and water tanks drained and the water run to clear out the lines and tanks. Though an old friend at the US EPA had identified a reasonably priced informational oriented analysis package, the turn around time was 4-6 weeks. Currently, it is reported to be less than 4 weeks. My best option to verify water quality within the transaction timeframe appeared to be to use an US EPA certified laboratory to perform a rush compliance analysis of the water sample for every primary and secondary contaminants listed under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The good news is the results confirmed that the on-site drinking water well provided water that met the Safe Drinking Water Standards. The groundwater supplying the house was uncontaminated. To obtain that analysis within the time frame of the contingency period I spent $1,635.00. I paid for the rush analysis because occasionally I had experienced delays obtaining analytical results at laboratories during my engineering career. The house was the most expensive purchase of my life and I did not want to purchase a house with “bad” water. I comforted myself that the results met the compliance standard of the US EPA and could serve as evidence in court. If my groundwater were ever contaminated I could prove that on the date of the test it was uncontaminated. The water also tasted good.
This spring I used the WaterCheck with Pesticides to test my water quality. This is a test kit you can either buy and take the sample yourself and ship it off to the laboratory in Michigan or you can have a local laboratory do the sampling to ensure that the local laboratory does a same day analysis for Bacteria (presence/absence for coliform and E.coli) and nitrates. My confidence in the results of the bacterial tests for a sample shipped next day on ice was limited so I went with my local laboratory. The kits are made by National Testing Labs and can be purchased directly from them or from a variety of distributors. A sample report can be seen at this link.
This is an informational test packages targeted to be an affordable option for consumers. It is easy to read with the simple four symbols of green check, blue dot, yellow triangle and red cross. If your entire report is green and blue there is nothing to worry about. If any yellow or red symbols appear, you want to gather more information starting with your department of health and the Laboratory that performed the analysis. Additional testing might be necessary. The WaterCheck with Pesticide covers total Coliform and E.Coli bacteria, 15 heavy metals, 5 inorganic chemicals, 5 physical factors, 4 trihalo methanes, 43 volatile organic chemicals (solvents), and 20 pesticides, herbicides and PCB’s. The Minimum Detection Levels, which are the lowest levels at which the laboratory detects that contaminant with an acceptable degree of accuracy are below the levels established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, but in many instances higher than those required for a compliance test. These tests are designed to give an overall picture of water quality, but do not cover all contaminants that are regulated by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act and are not admissible as evidence in court, which I hope never to need. I believe most people will find that their drinking water source has not been impacted, nonetherless; you should check.

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