Testing a Home’s Water for Contaminants

Water is essential for modern living. It is used for drinking and cooking in the home, as well as bathing, doing dishes, and washing laundry, as well as watering gardens and filling swimming pools. Today’s American home should have adequate plumbing and water quality, but sometimes it will not, and testing and filtration methods may be needed to get everything back into working order. Some homes even use a private well; if one’s well water smells strange, that is just one indicator of several that there is a problem. Well water smells and other symptoms mean that professionals should be called in to deal with water contamination.

Plumbing Methods

Most American homes today make use of public utilities and sewage systems alike, but around 15 million households in the United States actually make use of private wells instead for their drinking water. Such wells are created when percussion or rotary drilling machines carve up to 1,000 feet deep into the earth to reach water tables and other sources, and unlike the stock image of a medieval town’s well, modern wells will have safety and construction standards in place. And in the state of New Hampshire, for example, 36% of the residents there get their drinking water from such private wells, and every year, some 4,700 new wells are built. For a typical well, an adequate supply of water measures as about five gallons per minute.

Meanwhile, many American homes and commercial buildings still make use of traditional public utilities, and a households should keep water use in mind to control their water bill. Water leaks, for example, are a hazard; every year in the United States, 900 billion gallons of water are lost through leaks. Such leaks can also damage drywall or electrical components, too. And running a faucet for five minutes will consume 10 gallons of water, so homeowners are advised to control water flow whenever possible. But whether a home uses a private well or public utilities, there may be problems sometimes.

Contaminants and Water Treatment

Water hardness is one problem that a household’s plumbing can suffer. This is when dissolved calcium or magnesium in the water reaches a certain density, and the result can involve spots of these dried elements on dishes, stiffness of clothes washed in it, irritation of the scalp and hair when bathing in it, and possibly mild poisoning from very high concentrations of solvents. Professionals may have to be called in to test the water, and they may install a water filter to fix the problem. Such a filter makes use of small metal beads and ions to attract the solvents to them, trapping them in a side tank on those beads. Once the beads are saturated, they are scrubbed clean by salts in the tank and the beads resume their filtration work.

If well water smells strange, or if other symptoms appear, a homeowner may have to test the water and give it treatment. According to Well Owner, the National Ground Water Association, or NGWA, recommends testing wall water every year for bacteria, nitrates, and other contaminants. If the well water smells funny, tastes strange, if the septic system has malfunctioned, or if the home’s occupants suffer gastrointestinal distress, there may be a problem. The local water or health department can give advice on how to test the water, and the county health department may accept water samples to test in their lab.

Total coliform, or general bacteria population in the water, can become very high and this could mean that hazardous species like E. Coli may appear. Or, nitrates can get into the water from fertilizer or the septic system, and the water can be tested for iron, pH, hardness, or sulfides. If the well water smells or taste bad, no time should be wasted; any of these contaminants could be hazardous to the entire household.

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