It is estimated that more than 13 million households rely on private well water for drinking water in the United States (US Census American Housing Survey 2017). The EPA does not regulate private wells nor does it provide recommended criteria or standards for individual wells.
While the EPA does offer information regarding the importance of testing private well water and guidance on technologies that may be used to treat or remove any contaminants, private well owners are responsible for the safety of their water.
It’s important to test your private well annually for:
- Total coliform bacteria
- Total dissolved solids
- PH levels
If you suspect the presence of other contaminants, you should test for those also. You can also contact your local health department to find out what substances may be common in your area’s groundwater.
You may want to test more frequently if small children or elderly adults live in your house or if someone in your house is pregnant or nursing. These segments of the population are often more vulnerable to pollutants than others.
You should also test your private well immediately if:
- There are known problems with ground water or drinking water in your area.
- Conditions near your well have changed significantly (i.e. flooding, land disturbances, and new construction or industrial activity).
- You replace or repair any part of your well system.
- You notice a change in your water quality (i.e. odor, color, taste).
In addition, well owners should also determine if the ground water you rely on for household use is under direct influence from surface water. Ground water under the direct influence of surface water is susceptible to contamination from activities on the surface. Direct influence is determined on a site by site basis under state program criteria.
Identifying reasons to test your water
The chart below lists common conditions or nearby activities that well owners should be aware of and the substance(s) that you should consider testing for to ensure your well is safe. Not all of the substances listed pose an immediate or long-term health problem, some impact quality of life only such as appearance, taste, and odor.
Conditions or Nearby Activities:
Recurring gastro-intestinal illness
Household plumbing or service lines that contain lead
pH, lead, copper
Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich
Corrosion of pipes, plumbing
Corrosion, pH, lead
Nearby areas of intensive agriculture
Nitrate, nitrite, pesticides, coliform bacteria
Coal or other mining operations nearby
Metals, pH, corrosion
Gas drilling operations nearby
Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium
Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station or dry-cleaning operation nearby
Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals
Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks
Volatile organic compounds
Objectionable taste or smell
Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals
Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry
Iron, copper, manganese
Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby
Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium
Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather
Rapid wear of water treatment equipment
Water softener needed to treat hardness
Water appears cloudy, frothy or colored
If you would like a free water test to see if your well water could use improvement, please call 509-381-7818 or schedule your FREE in-home water test here.