Home Inspector Tip: Test Your Well Water

We all want our drinking water, and the water we use to cook, bath, etc. to be safe and not harm our plumbing, discolor our laundry, etc. If you live in a town or city where the water comes from a municipal source, the local water district tests the water on a regular basis to make sure it complies with EPA and Maine standards to insure it is safe to drink and does not contain certain contaminants. If your water comes from a well, whether drilled or dug, it is up to you as the homeowner to test your water.

The State of Maine recommends that well water be tested every year for bacteria, nitrates, and nitrites and every 3 to 5 years for certain other chemicals, including radon and lead.  Here is a link to a brochure prepared by the State which sets forth its recommendations concerning testing well water.

The State of Maine also recommends that the water in all homes, even if the water is not from a well, be tested for lead with what is referred to as “first draw lead” test, every 10 years for homes built before 1990 when lead soldering was banned. Because the source of lead is usually NOT the ground water, but the plumbing, a unique sample is required for a first draw lead.

Despite the recommendations of the state, in my experience as a home inspector, very few people regularly test their well water after they buy or build a home.  When I collect water samples to be tested on behalf of a home buyer and the test reveals the presence of something which makes it unsafe to drink, such as coliform bacteria, arsenic, or fluoride, the property owner is notified and he/she is usually very surprised to discover the water is unsafe to drink.  The same applies when other contaminants are detected in a test which make the water hard, may corrode plumbing fixtures, etc.

Testing is relatively inexpensive depending on what you want to test for. You can hire a home inspector or other professional to collect water samples to have your well water tested. This allows you to have your water sampled by a professional for not much more than what it would cost you to do the test yourself taking into account water samples require overnight shipping if you are testing for bacteria.

If you are going to collect the samples yourself, you can order a test kit from one of the labs certified by Maine to test well water.  Here is a link to website which lists the certified labs in Maine.The kit will come with instructions on how to collect the samples.  For those of you who prefer video instructions, such as myself, here is a video which explains what you need to do. Water Testing Equipment

Regardless of whether you are going to do it yourself, or hire someone, I encourage everyone to regularly test their well water. Doing so is the only way to know that it is safe for you and your family.


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