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Do you know if your well water is safe to drink? Just because water is clear, colourless, odourless and without a taste problem, doesn’t mean that harmful chemicals and disease-causing organisms are absent. Water must be tested in a laboratory for specific bacteria and chemicals to determine if it is safe. Determining what chemicals to test for requires a knowledge of the well, its water history and any causes for concern.

Some common chemicals, such as nitrate and sulphate, are usually found as natural components of groundwater. At low concentrations nitrates and sulphates are harmless. At high concentrations in well water, however, they are harmful to human health. If I test for coliforms and E.coli isn’t that enough ? Nitrates and sulphates are not detected by the bacterial tests for “potability” - coliforms and E.coli.

Other chemicals such as pesticides, gasoline, and fuel oil are not normally found in ground water, but can pollute well water by accident. These chemicals usually impart an objectionable taste to drinking water. They may also be present at concentrations too low to detect by taste or smell, but will cause the release of high levels of iron or sulphide. Water contaminated with iron and sulphide can be unusable for domestic use.

Correct sampling procedures and appropriate tests are needed to determine well water quality. Only testing can answer what is the safety of a drinking water supply, what is causing a problem and what treatment do you need. Installing treatment before you know what is causing a problem can be a huge waste of money. Look before you leap!