Dear Jim - this is an excellent question.
A general mineral analysis including nitrate and coliform bacteria is a great place to begin. For homes near service stations, industry, agriculture, or a major freeway you would also want to analyze for organic compounds, heavy metals, pesticide sprays, and weed killers. A general mineral analysis with bacteria should be performed once a calendar year or in the event your water changes in physical appearance suddenly.
A general mineral test would include calcium, magnesium, chloride, nitrate, potassium and sodium in addition to metals such as iron and manganese. If you're encountering stains or sediment, a general mineral analysis will indicate what is producing the problem. If the water contains a funny taste or odor a general mineral analysis with bacteria will often tell you why you have the condition. These tests show if the water is going to be corrosive to pipes, or form mineral scale in your piping, as well as the levels of minerals and salts. If you are having problems with color in the water or brown staining additional tests for tannins is suggested.
Coliform bacteria are living in topsoil, on vegetation and also in surface water. Coliform bacteria found in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals and fecal matter are called E.coli. A number of strains of coliform bacteria can survive for long periods of time in soil and water and can be transported into well casings by insect pests. Coliform bacteria are the most commonly encountered contaminants found in private water systems. Private water wells really should be tested at least once per year for bacteria. However, bacteria are only one of many possible contaminants.
Lead and Copper
Testing for lead and copper should be done on first-draw water which has been dormant in the distribution pipes for no less than 6 hours. In the event that lead and copper concentrations are excessive due to domestic plumbing, they can generally be reduced to tolerable levels by purging the tap for just a few minutes before collecting water for drinking.
Nitrate forms when nitrogen from fertilizers, animal wastes, septic systems, city and county sewage sludge, and decaying plants combines with oxygenated water. In babies under 6 months old, nitrate exposure may cause a life-threatening condition called methemoglobinemia or blue-baby syndrome. Infants with this problem need urgent medical care given that it can lead to coma and death.
Test for nitrate in cases where a pregnant woman or infant is going to be drinking the water. Everyone should get their water tested for nitrate at least one time. If you reside in an area within a mile of a corn, soybean or vegetable field, it is best to test your water for nitrate regularly. Well owners should also test for nitrate regularly if their well is situated near a location where fertilizers are produced, or near animal feedlots.
Solvents, Gas and Oil
Household and industrial solvents, gasoline, and fuel oil are examples of volatile organic chemicals known as VOCs. A number of VOCs tend to be somewhat non-toxic, while some may cause cancer, birth defects, and reproduction complications. Fuel oil and gas can enter groundwater as a result of a leaking storage tank or perhaps an old oil spill. Wells that are located within a mile of an active or abandoned gasoline station, house or farm fuel tank or bulk storage tank have about a greater possibility of being polluted and really should be analyzed one or more times for VOCs.
Paint thinners, dry cleaning chemicals as well as industrial solvents can easily get into well water as a result of spills, improper disposal, leaking storage tanks as well as landfills. Wells which are located close to a landfill, dry cleaner, automobile repair shop or possibly industrial sites where solvents are used ought to be analyzed for VOCs.
Pesticides and Herbicides
Insecticides are chemical substances employed to control unwanted weeds as well as insects. A number of these now have entered groundwater on account of their use on farm fields. Others have been found in groundwater because of spills and improper disposal. Long-term use of drinking water that contains pesticide by-products may well increase your likelihood of acquiring cancers and other serious health problems.
If your well is situated near corn, soybean or vegetable fields, you need to test your well water for pesticides or herbicides. You should also consider a pesticide test if your well is close to where pesticides are produced or stored. Well owners who are unclear about the use of pesticides or herbicides in their area may also want to consider getting their water tested at least once for these contaminants.
Easy Well Water Test Kit
Why wait for a lab analysis? Includes easy to read chart and instructions so you can quickly see if your well water is within the recommended range for the 11 contaminant parameters included in the test.
- These 11 parameters are a must-know for all well water owners and are designed to give you results accurately and rapidly.
- Free technical support line included: just email or fax us the results and one of our WQA Certified Water Specialists will respond quickly to you and answer any questions or help you interpret the results.
- 11 Easy to use test kits for immediate, accurate on-site results right in the privacy of your own home.
- Sealed in foil packets providing total protection for the patented test strips.
- Safe to use. Fast, easy to understand results.
- One Test Each for Alkalinity, Chlorine, Copper, Hydrogen Sulfide, Hardness, Iron, Manganese, Nitrate, Nitrite, pH, Sulfate
- Includes tests for Sulfate and Manganese (not found in other test kits, but very important to test for!)
- Free follow-up Technical Support if desired by WQA Certified Water Specialists
- One Test for Each:
- Hydrogen Sulfide
- pH (30 tests for pH included)
The Clean Well Water Test is a good laboratory analysis that covers bacteria plus general mineral and heavy metals.
The Clean Well Water Test
Tests included: Coliform bacteria, Aluminum, Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium, Boron, Cadmium, Calcium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Lithium, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Phosphorus, Potassium, Silicon, Silver, Sodium, Strontium, Vanadium, Zinc., Bromide, Chloride, Fluoride, Nitrate, Phosphate, Sulfate, pH, Tannins
Simply fill the bottle and send the pre-paid mailer and within 2 weeks we will have your complete analysis.
The Ultimate Well Water Laboratory Test! 95 Tests for Chemicals, Bacteria, Metals, Minerals
This test is a complete analysis that offers bacteria, general mineral, plus heavy metals and chemicals.
WaterCheck Test Kit
This 85 parameter test offers a broad spectrum of drinking water analysis including bacteria; metals; other inorganics; and volatile organics. Comes complete with all test bottles and testing instructions.
Return the sampling kit to National Testing Laboratories and they will send the results back to you (Shipping back to the lab not included in price. Next Day Air will be necessary for bacteria test to be done).