Is your well water safe to drink?
Well Owners – Is your drinking water safe?
When’s the last time you had your drinking water tested? If you’re like many well owners in the United States, you probably have never tested your water. Why should you bother? You have plenty of water and it tastes good, right?
If you want to be sure your drinking water is safe, you need to get it tested.
Test at least annually
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) recommends well owners test their water at least annually for bacteria, nitrates, and contaminants specific to your area. Consider more frequent testing if:
- There is a change in taste, odor, or appearance of well water.
- The well has a history of contamination.
- The well is near a septic system.
- There have been recurring incidents of gastrointestinal illness.
- An infant is living in the home.
- Home water treatment equipment has been installed.
Recommended annual tests
- E. coli bacteria is a specific indication of fecal contamination in the well. Its presence is a warning that disease-causing bacteria may have entered the well.
- Nitrate gets into drinking water from fertilizers, manure, and septic systems. It also occurs naturally. High nitrate levels present a health concern for infants if the water is mixed with formula.
- Arsenic is naturally occurring in groundwater. It’s linked to various cancers and other health issues.
- Manganese also occurs in nature and can be present in groundwater. At high enough levels, it may cause brain damage.
- Lead typically gets into drinking water from corroded pipes and plumbing fixtures. If your home was built prior to 1986, it’s more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder.
Where can I get my drinking water tested?
You have a couple options to explore.
- Call your county health department. They may provide water testing for bacteria and nitrates. If you want to test for other contaminants, the county health department should be able to provide you with a list of area state-certified drinking water testing labs.
- View a list of certified laboratories on Ohio EPA’s website.
- Contact a nearby municipal public water system. Often the regional, city or county public water system laboratories have the capability to run bacteria tests. They may be willing to provide this service to interested well owners.
- Attend a Test Your Well Event. As a service to private well owners, MCD fosters a confidential screening program called Test Your Well. Scheduled events allow you to bring a sample of your well water to be tested – at no charge – for the presence of nitrates, arsenic, and bacteria. MCD has tested the water from thousands of private well property owners over the years. We partner with local organizations like county soil and water conservation districts and FFA chapters to hold the events. Test Your Well events are scheduled throughout the year.
National Ground Water Association – for well owners
Ohio EPA- about drinking water
Ohio EPA- list of certified water testing labs
OSU Extension – On-line tool to help well owners understand test results ohiowatersheds.osu.edu/know-your-well-water/well-waterinterpretation-tool
National Center for Water Quality Research – for well owners ncwqr.org/water-testing/well-water-testing