Why Should I test my water?

Carbon County Groundwater Guardians (CCGG), new name- “Keystone Clean Water Team”  recommends testing the water of every residential well on a regular basis. If the water was never tested, a comprehensive test should be done first. Based on the results of the test, follow-up testing should be done as needed. Testing for bacteria should be done at least once a year.

This testing is needed because your water quality can diminish due to changes in your water usage, in weather conditions, in your neighborhood etc. This is the reason why public water suppliers are required by law to constantly monitor the water they provide.

If you notice any change in your water, it should be tested immediately.

The state of Pennsylvania issues no standards for private well water quality. The only time the state gets involved is when there is pollution due to spills, leaking tanks or industry.

If your well water contains bacteria, for example, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) will tell you to buy bottled water or give you a pamphlet, which explains how to shock chlorinate your well. That’s it. It’s up to you to fix any and all problems. Yes, you’re completely on your own.

In order to fix problems that could be threatening you or your family’s health, you first have to know a problem exists. How can you find out if your well water is safe? There is a very simple answer, and only one answer. Test your water.

If you have a private well, you’re an unregulated water company. If you also have a septic system, you’re an unregulated sewage company. It’s common for septic discharge to pollute the water in your and your neighbor’s well.

You don’t have to live next to a superfund site or landfill to have problems. Nature adds a number of  substances into the ground and groundwater that may cause health concerns or aesthetic problems, such as: arsenic, iron, and manganese.  The improper placement and well construction can increase the microbiological population of the water or make it vulnerable to influence.  The improper placement, maintenance, or lack of best practices can result in contamination from oil and fuel tanks, urban runoff, road salt, or other activities in the area surrounding and upgradient of the well.   Even through agricultural practices have improved, past agricultural practices have increased the concentration of nitrates, nitrites, and some pesticide residues.

A few facts about PA Groundwater and Private Wells:

1. About 30 to 50% of private wells have an elevated level of total coliform.
2. About 15 to 20% of private wells have e. coli.
3. About 6 to 8 % have elevated levels of arsenic.
4. About 20 to 30% have elevated levels of iron.
5. About 10 to 20 % have elevated levels of manganese.
6. About 5 % have elevated levels of chloride, barium, strontium, total dissolved solids, radiological issues, and/or methane (above 7 mg/L).

Source: Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database (Oram, 2012)

A part of CCGG’s Mission is to offer advice to homeowners with a private well and septic system, and it’s free. The advice comes primarily from local Universities and Experts in Water Quality.   Because of Natural Gas Development in Pennsylvania, it is critical to consider the need for water testing.  Water testing can fall into three broad categories.

1. Informational Water Testing – This can be a screening test that is performed annually to check on the status of the system or if you suspect a problem.  Typically, these informational water test programs use certified laboratory methods, but the results are not suitable for any legal action.  Informational water testing resource.

2. Certified Testing – this is testing where you may collect the sample and send it to a local certified testing laboratory.  Because you are not an unbiased third-party sampler, this type of testing may not hold up in court, but this is a great screening test.

3. Baseline Water Testing – this is where third party unbiased professionals collect the water sample, conduct field testing, and deliver the sample to a certified testing laborartory.  This has the highest level of protection and the data would be suitable for court.

We are in the process of working with a National Laboratory to offer informational water testing by mail as a screening test for our supports.

If you are looking for testing and you are not sure what you need,  we would recommend that you contact us with your questions and type of assistance you need.

New Booklet on Water Quality in Pennsylvania.