Being a rural community there are numerous homes that are serviced by private water supplies in Madison County. Although the water coming from the tap may appear clear and taste good, do you know that its really safe?  Water may contain dissolved minerals, organic compounds or even live organisms at harmful concentrations. Contaminated water used for drinking and cooking may affect your health. Also, high concentrations of certain minerals can result in quality issues such as unpleasant taste and odors or staining of bathroom fixtures and/or laundry.

Unlike public water systems, private water supply testing is the voluntary responsibility of the homeowner. There are no government agencies or programs that routinely test private water systems for homeowners. In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report on test results of private well water from 30 of the nation’s 62 principal aquifers across the United States. Results indicated that one of every five private wells contained one or more contaminants at concentrations exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) human health benchmarks.  That approximately half of all wells had at least one problem and a third of all wells had microbial contamination. The quality and safety of drinking water is of great concern to many because of an increased interest in health and environmental quality. This focus on water quality should lead homeowners to consider testing their water.

Many pollutants found in private water systems have no obvious symptoms and can only be detected through laboratory testing. Water testing provides vital information to document the quality of your drinking water. The only way homeowners can be certain that their water is safe to drink is to have the water tested periodically. While it is possible to have a water supply tested for many things, such a test is very expensive and unnecessary. Instead, homeowners should focus testing on a few standard parameters and then identify problems to indicate further testing.

There are numerous tests available, but they can be classified into categories. Bacteria tests generally check for indicator bacteria (for example, total coliform, fecal coliform or Escherichia coli) and can indicate the presence or absence of disease-causing bacteria. There are other types of tests that cover a variety of bacteria. However, these tests are costly and are conducted only if they are absolutely essential. Mineral tests can determine if the mineral content of your water is high enough to affect either health or the aesthetic and cleaning capacities of your water. A mineral test may include calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc and some others. An abundance of these minerals can cause hard water, plumbing and laundry stains, or bad odors. Organic chemicals tests are generally performed only if there is reason to believe a specific contaminant has infiltrated the water system (such as pesticides entering the water supply). Industrial and petroleum contamination can also be found through organic chemical testing. Other tests may be conducted on radiological contaminants (radium and radon) or heavy metals (such as arsenic, mercury, lead or cadmium) based on the suspected natural and man-made sources of such contaminants.

Routine yearly testing for bacteria is recommended. Also, routinely testing (every one to three years) the pH and minerals is a good practice.  Other testing should be done based on changes to well system or when problems are suspected.  If you have additional questions on water testing, please contact us at 706-793-2281 or