Testing water on a regular basis for potential contamination is essential for homeowners with wells on their property. Some chemicals and bacteria that can be found in well water can cause adverse health effects. Outside contaminants such as: water runoff from rainfall, snowmelt, sewage, animal waste, etc. can potentially infiltrate wells by washing microorganisms into the well system. Leaching from pipes can also cause health effects due to high concentrations of heavy metals in your water.  Before you test your well, make sure you educate yourself on the following:

Primary vs Secondary Contaminant Levels

The EPA recommends that homeowners test their water at least once a year for total coliforms, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH level. Consistent water testing establishes a record of your water quality. This record is helpful if any future problems occur and aids in obtaining compensation if anyone damages your water supply. There are certain drinking water quality standards that the EPA has established which are divided into two categories: primary and secondary contaminant levels. Primary contaminant levels concern concentrations of chemicals or microorganisms that present a risk to human health, while secondary standards are mostly for aesthetic considerations (i.e. taste, odor, appearance). The secondary contaminant levels are not enforced by the EPA because they do not present a health risk, however, they may cause damage to water equipment or reduce effectiveness of treatment for other contaminants.

Examples of this are:

ContaminantsPrimary Contaminant LevelsSecondary Contaminant Levels
Copper1.3 ppm1.0 ppm
Fluoride4.0 ppm2.0 ppm


Hiring a third-party inspector

Water quality testing is performed periodically to check well suitability, and when applying for an FHA, VA, or USDA loan (See our FHA/VA analysis) through a mortgage company for a real estate transaction. If you are applying for a loan, the company may require a third-party inspector. Depending on the company, other rules on the loan may apply. The primary benefit to hiring an inspector is that they will function as an objective, third party in the transaction which may be required for legal purposes. They also have experience with water testing and may be able to answer questions you have about your situation since they collected the sample on-site and examined the property in question. If you decide to collect a water sample on your own, whether approved by your mortgage lender or for your own personal knowledge, our on-call staff is available Monday-Friday 8:30- 5:00 pm EST to consult on sample collection and to help interpret your water report.

Shocking your well

The standards for remediating a well if Coliform bacteria or E. coli are present is subject to the state (See our Coliform bacteria / E. coli analysis). In Tennessee for example, if Coliform Bacteria is present in your well water, you are to “shock” the well. The process of shocking a well consists of pouring 1 gallon of chlorine bleach for every 50 ft of well depth. If you do not know your well depth, there are several different sources you may use to find out the depth. The National Groundwater Information System has depth-to-water measurements made in the present and the past. You may also contact The National Groundwater Monitoring Network, a compilation of groundwater monitoring wells from federal, state, and local groundwater networks across the nation. In addition, your state government may maintain a database of drillers’ logs that have water-levels recorded when a well was drilled, and hydrologic consultants often have reports that contain water-level data.



– The National Groundwater Association | NGWA Home


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