Updated on 19 October, 2021
The Safe Drinking Water Act regulates the quality of the water supply in most States. The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted by the Clean Water Act ofowski in 1977. It is important to understand what the Safe Drinking Water Act does not do regarding the quality of the water supply from a private well. The federal law requires that all private wells be tested annually for primary and secondary metals, cysts, bacterial contamination, heavy metals, VOCs, prescription drugs, pesticides, herbicides, prescription drug contaminants and other contaminants at the time of purchase, prior to the issuance of any license or permit to install and operate a private well for public drinking. The Act also requires the EPA to submit periodic reports regarding the testing programs and to make the data available to the public.
Most private well water systems are inspected only at the time of installation. It's left up to the homeowner to regularly maintain their well water for disinfection purposes. This is generally a good practice to follow, provided that there are no other contaminants in the system. Testing should be conducted after the well has been well established for at least six months or after repeated unsuccessful testing. There are specific steps which must be followed for testing purposes. These steps are included in the Operating Procedures and in this article.
Prior to conducting any kind of well water testing, whether it's an independent laboratory or an on-site service provider, the contaminant concentration must be determined. The most common way to determine the concentration of hazardous elements is by using the AART method, which is described in the AART Manual, published by the Water Quality Association (WQA). This is an economical and accurate way to test for all types of contaminants. The laboratory report shall identify the test site, the analytical method used and the conclusion.
Prior to running the laboratory test, the laboratory personnel shall ensure that all of the proper equipment is in good operating condition and storage containers are available. All materials relating to the testing should be prepared for review in the laboratory. A copy of the final laboratory report shall be provided to the customer, who will be responsible for submitting the completed application to the regulatory agency. The report shall include the results of the water test along with the location and results of the sample.
Well water testing kits may be available from the local governing body. However, it is preferable to have your own kit as it can save time. All the necessary materials for carrying out the testing can be bought from the local hardware stores and retailers. The kit comprises of the required amount of reagents as well as the manual, which explains how to interpret the test results. The laboratory will normally use one or more reagents to detect contaminants present in the waters, which may include: bacteria, viruses, metals, organic compounds, iron, nitrates and sulphates.
Well testing requirements differ based on different states. The most common testing requirement is for bacterial contamination, which is usually performed using multi-well equipment. Apart from this, a minimum requirement by the state for bacterial contamination is for a minimum of three hundred samples in a year. Well water is tested only once every five years at best, and if private wells are used, private well testing requirements are more stringent.
Private wells are generally tested only if minimum contaminant standards have been met. Well owners must contact the state office for water regulations or go through the private wells website for updated information. Private wells do not have to be serviced under public water regulations. However, it is still better to get your waters tested as once you find out there are pollutants in them; you can avoid buying new wells.
Well testing is a costly affair, even when well owners comply with state and county regulations. The cost of testing will depend on the number of sample results required, the type of testing conducted, the length of the sampling period and the vendor chosen for conducting the testing. Some private wells may be protected from sampling until the property served by the well is sold. The effective date of testing is generally two months before the property is transferred. If you have bought your property and find that there have been significant changes in your water quality, it's time to have your water tested.