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Residential Water Testing

If your drinking water comes from a private well on Cape Cod, you might consider getting it tested regularly.  The sandy soils and contiguous aquifer make drinking water wells particularly vulnerable to contamination from activity on the land surface (such as chemical spills and pesticide application) and subsurface (such as onsite septic systems and underground fuel storage tanks).  The only way to know if your water is safe to drink is to have it tested regularly by a certified laboratory.

How often should I get my well water tested?

smiley-681575_640The Groundwater Foundation and the Center for Disease Control recommend testing a drinking water well annually for selected parameters.  The Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment recommends annual testing for (at minimum) coliform bacteria, pH, specific conductance, sodium and nitrates.  More comprehensive testing for copper, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, lead and a suite of volatile organic compounds should be done every three years.  Depending on potential sources of contamination in your area, we might recommend testing for other parameters.  If you would like to discuss sampling you can call the Laboratory Director, Gongmin Lei at 508-375-6606.

How will I know if there is a problem in my well?

Unfortunately, many contaminants are odorless and tasteless, but some obvious indicators of a problem are provided.  These are adapted from the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Condition or Nearby Activity What to Test for
Recurring gastro-intestinal illness Coliform bacteria
Household plumbing contains lead pH, lead, copper
Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich Radon
Corrosion of pipes, plumbing Corrosion, pH, lead
Nearby areas of intensive agriculture Nitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria
Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-cleaning operation nearby Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals
Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks Volatile organic compounds
Objectionable taste or smell Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals
Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry Iron, copper, manganese
Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium
Water appears cloudy, frothy, or colored Color, detergents

If you suspect a problem in you well, you can contact our laboratory for some friendly advice. EPA has a useful resource regarding private wells.

How can I interpret the results of my well water test?

Generally every laboratory report will indicate the result along with the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL).  This is the maximum concentration of the contaminant that is considered safe to drink.  A list of contaminants with their MCLs can be found here.

Concerned about a contaminant not analyzed by the Barnstable County Laboratory?

The Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment Laboratory is certified to analyze for a wide range of contaminants.  If you are interested in analyzing your well water for a compound not listed, please feel free to call us and we can attempt to arrange testing by another laboratory that is certified for the compound of interest.

A la Carte Pricing

The following individual analyses are also available. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Test
Fee
Aluminum$20.00
Ammonia$16.00
Arsenic$15.00
Bacteria (Coliform)$12.00
Copper$15.00
Iron$15.00
Lead$15.00
Manganese$25.00
Mercury$25.00
Nickel$15.00
Nitrates$12.00
Nitrites$12.00
Sodium$12.00
Sulfate$15.00
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)$85.00

** ALL prices listed above are for standard 2 week processing times, please contact lab if rapid processing is needed.