1 H o m e W a t e r T e s t i n g Should I Have My Water Tested? Public Water Systems The a nswer to this question depends on several factors. It When you turn on the tap, where does the water come concerns your health and the health of your family, so you from? If you pay a water bill, you are purchasing water need to know some basic facts. from a public water system, where your water is monitored, tested and the results reported to the In addition to illness, a variety federal, state or tribal drinking water of less serious problems agencies responsible for making sure it such as taste, color, odor and meets the National Primary Drinking staining of clothes or fi xtures Water Standards. Your water company are signs of possible water quality problems. Other must notify you when contaminants things to think about include are in the water they provide that may the nearness of your water cause illness or other problems. well to septic systems and the composition of your home’s Most people in the United States plumbing materials. receive water from a community water system that provides its customers with This fact sheet provides an annual water quality report, also known as a Consumer information to help you decide whether or not to have your Confi dence Report. Normally, you will receive it with water tested, and if so, suggested tests for your situation. your water bill once a year in July. The report contains information on contaminants found, possible health effects, Regardless of your water source, here are two and the water’s source. If you do not receive a report, situations that may require testing: contact your water company for this information. Do you suspect lead may be in some of your household plumbing materials and water service lines? Private Water Supplies Most water systems test for lead as a regular part of I f your drinking water does not come from a public water water monitoring. These tests give a system-wide from a household system, or you get your drinking water picture, but do not refl ect conditions at a specifi c household faucet. well, you alone If you want to know if your home’s drinking water are responsible contains unsafe levels of lead, have your water tested. Testing is the only way to confi rm if lead is present or for assuring absent. that it is safe. Some faucet and pitcher fi lters can remove lead from drinking water. If you use a fi lter to remove lead, be sure you get one that is certifi ed to remove lead by NSF For this reason, International. routine testing For more information, visit www.epa.gov/safewater/ for a few of the lead, or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at . 1-800-426-4791 most common contaminants Are you considering a home water treatment unit? is highly recommended. Even if you currently have a safe, Find out what is in your water and what you might want to pure water supply, regular testing can be valuable because remove before contacting potential dealers. Be informed so you can make the right decisions. To help you, please it establishes a record of water quality. This record is visit: www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/faq.html#hwtu and helpful in solving any future problems and in obtaining www.epa.gov/safewater/wot . compensation if someone damages your water supply.
2 The following items will help you determine when to test Collecting Samples your private drinking water supply. Most testing laboratories or services supply their own sample containers. Use the containers provided and How frequently should I test? carefully follow the instructions given for collecting, Test water every year for total coliform bacteria, preserving and handling water samples. Samples for nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels, coliform bacteria testing must be collected using sterile especially if you have a new well, or have replaced containers and under sterile conditions. Some procedures or repaired pipes, pumps or the well casing. require that water runs from an outside tap for several Do you expect to have a new baby in the minutes before fi lling the sample containers. Laboratories household? may sometimes send a trained technician to collect the Test for nitrate in the early months of a pregnancy, sample or to analyze the sample directly in your home. before bringing an infant home, and again during Ask if this service is available, since you may obtain better the fi rst six months of the baby’s life. It is best samples and more reliable test results. to test for nitrate during the spring or summer WHEN TO TEST YOUR WATER following a rainy period. Recommended Test Conditions or nearby activities Do you have taste, odor and staining issues? Recurrent gastro-intestinal illness Coliform bacteria Test for sulfate, chloride, iron, manganese, Household plumbing pH, lead, copper hardness and corrosion, and every three years. If contains lead you suspect other contaminants, test for these also. Radon in indoor air or region is Radon radon rich Have you had a chemical or fuel spill or leak near your water supply? Hardness ’t lather Scaly residues, soaps don Test your well for chemical contaminants, such Manganese, iron Water softener needed to treat hardness as volatile organic compounds. Tests can be expensive; limit them to possible problems specifi c Stained plumbing fi xtures, iron, copper, manganese to your situation. Local laundry experts can tell you about Hydrogen sulfi de, Objectionable taste or smell corrosion, metals possible impurities in your area. Color, detergents Water appears cloudy, frothy or colored Is someone in your Corrosion of pipes, plumbing Corrosion, pH, lead household pregnant Rapid wear of water treatment pH, corrosion or nursing an infant? equipment Are there unexplained Nitrate, pesticides, coliform Nearby areas of intensive illnesses in your family? agriculture bacteria Do you notice a change in Coal or other mining operation Metals, pH, corrosio n water taste, odor, color or nearby clarity? You may need to Gas drilling operation nearby Chloride, sodium, barium, test more than once a year. strontium Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and Volatile organic Do you know who can test your water? near gas station or buried fuel compounds (VOC) Often county health departments will help you tanks If not, you can have test for bacteria or nitrates. Dump, junkyard, landfi ll, factory VOC, Total disolved solids your water tested by a state certifi ed laboratory. (TDS), pH, sulfate, chloride, or dry-cleaning operation nearby metals You can fi nd one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or Salty taste and seawater, or a Chloride, TDS, sodium heavily salted roadway nearby visiting . www.epa.gov/safewater/labs 05 5-013 May 20 Offi ce of Water (4606) www.epa.gov/safewater EPA 816-F-0