Posted on December 23, 2019 by Michael Dietz
If you are like most people, as long as water comes out of the tap, you don’t give it much thought. If your water is supplied by a water company, stringent testing is required by law, and you will periodically receive results of the testing. If you are one of the 40% of Connecticut residents who has a private well, the last time you had that water tested was likely when it was built (you can’t move in unless your well water meets certain criteria), or when you purchased it (if you have a mortgage, the bank will often require testing to make sure you have a safe water supply).
Older homes had shallow wells which drew from groundwater close to the surface. These wells are vulnerable to contamination from surface sources. Newer homes have wells that are drilled into the bedrock, and may be hundreds of feet deep. However, even deep wells can become contaminated from surface sources such as nearby septic systems, road salt, leaks from gas stations, or agricultural activities. Other contaminants such as radon, uranium and arsenic are naturally occurring in some parts of Connecticut.
The best way to protect you and your family from possible contamination is to test your water at one of the state’s certified testing labs. For an extra fee they will come to your home and collect the sample for you, or they will give you instructions on how to collect the sample. The Connecticut Department of Public Health has more information about private well testing. A basic potability test will cover a variety of contaminants including nitrate, sodium, chloride, and bacteria. If you leave near an agricultural area, you may also want to test for pesticides.
It is easy to take our water for granted. Keep your family safe and get your water tested!
In Connecticut, approximately 15% of residents receive their drinking water from private wells. In rural areas of the state, that percentage increases to greater than 90%.
An owner of a private well is also a manager of the well. As manager of the well, the homeowner is responsible for making sure that the water is safe to drink and the well is not damaged or compromised. Public water systems are required to regularly test water and meet federally set water quality standards. Private wells are not required to test and meet standards except following installation and at time of sale of the property.
It is important to have a basic understanding of factors affecting well water, what to test for and where to have well water tested. Practices to reduce the risk of contamination of well water are also important to the safety of drinking water.
Many homeowners are unaware of the recommendation to routinely test their private well. A basic series of tests is recommended annually. Other tests should be conducted based on potential sources of contaminants that may affect the well. This would be based on the potential presence of naturally occurring contaminants or those introduced by human activities/land uses.
It is recommended that homeowners use a testing laboratory that is EPA certified to test. The EPA has certified laboratories to assure that the labs have the proper equipment to test for the contaminants that they advertise. Not all environmental laboratories test for everything. It is a good consumer practice to compare two or three labs to determine which best suits the consumer’s needs.
If the water tests indicate that there is a problem, information is available to help the homeowner understand what the problem is and what options are available to address the problem if needed.
There are a number of steps that homeowners can take that can help to protect the quality of water in the private well.
Article by Karen Filchak, Retired Extension Educator