Today’s post is for all the folks living in a house with a private well. You may not realize it, but if you own the house, you are responsible for taking care of the well and making sure the water is safe to drink. Since most of the contaminants that can impair your health are odorless, colorless, and tasteless, the only way to know what’s hiding in there is to test your water. If you rent the house, you should inquire with your landlord about getting the water tested.
The University of Maryland Extension recommends routine testing for all residents who drink well water, but it’s especially important to test your water if you have pregnant women, infants, and young children in the house. Infants and children are more susceptible to injury and damage, as their brains and organs are still developing. Infants—particularly ones that drink formula—are at even greater risk since they consume more water for their size than adults and older children.
If you haven’t had your water tested in the past 3 years or more, we recommend getting a comprehensive test that includes the following contaminants. Contact your county office to inquire whether you should also test for local contaminants of concern, such as arsenic or manganese. They can also refer you to the state-certified water testing labs that serve your area. The lab will provide you with a report to indicate the level of each contaminant and whether it exceeds the EPA drinking water standard for public drinking water systems.
Coliform bacteria: This group of bacteria does not present a specific risk, but the presence of them could indicate the presence of more harmful bacteria, like E. coli, which may cause gastrointestinal distress.
Nitrate: This chemical is found in fertilizer, manure, and human waste, and when introduced into a baby’s body, can lead to “Blue Baby Syndrome”. Essentially, the infant will not be able to breathe properly and could suffocate. So if you have a septic tank that hasn’t been pumped in several years, I would also recommend scheduling a pump-out.
pH: pH indicates the water’s acidity or alkalinity. Acidic water can damage plumbing and leach dangerous metals from the pipes and fittings, like lead and copper.
Lead: Lead + drinking water = Flint water crisis, right? What’s the likelihood that lead is in your well water? Our colleagues at Virginia’s Household Water Quality Program report that research from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina resulted in 1 in 7 houses having high lead in water. This metal can cause irreversible damage to a child’s brain, nervous system, and other organs, resulting in developmental delays, lower IQs, and behavioral disorders.
Copper: Like lead, copper does not naturally occur in the water, but is leached out of the plumbing from acidic water. Copper can cause gastrointestinal distress, and liver or kidney damage.
If you would like to learn more about protecting your drinking water, contact me to schedule a seminar for your neighborhood.