We provide water quality testing for home owners and for real estate transactions. The minimum recommendation is to test for bacteria and nitrates. We strongly recommend more extensive testing as water quality not only may impact the health of occupants, but also may affect the longevity of appliances, water heaters, and plumbing pipes. Typically, our customers request a potability test. This test covers the following parameters: bacteria, nitrate, nitrite, chloride, sulfate, fluoride, turbidity, pH, hardness and iron.
Most of our customers (and all VA loan applicants with well water) request lead testing also.
For lead in water testing, the proper procedure is to collect a “first draw” sample. This means that the water should be used the day prior to testing, and then allowed to sit in the pipes for between 6 and 18 hours before the test sample is taken. For clients involved in a real estate transaction, please understand that Top To Bottom Services cannot direct or advise the home owner. Therefore, the client should coordinate through their real estate agent with the homeowner to provide the proper testing conditions at the time of your appointment with Top To Bottom Services.
Aside from the most common tests requested, we can provide testing for radon in water (not detected by radon in air testing), arsenic, VOC’s (volatile organic chemicals), and other contaminants if requested in advance. Some states/counties recommend these tests on a periodic basis, ranging from every five years to every 15 years. Clients with properties near or containing in-ground fuel storage tanks (other than propane) should consider VOC testing.
When we provide water quality testing with a home inspection, our inspectors will also evaluate the well system pump cycle time, pressure, approximate flow rate, and visible condition of well system components.
A note on water treatment systems: Many homes with well water also have water filtration or treatment systems. Although we do not provide analysis of water treatment system configuration, design, or effectiveness, additional water testing of a few parameters can help establish the effectiveness of a treatment system. With permission from the homeowner and system design permitting, we can operate the treatment system bypass and collect an untreated sample for comparison. Most of our clients rely on history provided by the property owner and lab testing results on tap water passed through the treatment system. This can help our clients determine
- If the treatment system is needed
- If the treatment system is performing its function correctly
U.S. EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline – (800) 426-4791
The very minimum standard for private well water testing is annual testing for coliform bacteria and nitrates. Additional testing is advisable, including lead, pH (to determine acidity level of water), hardness, iron, Turbidity, Fluoride, Sulfate, and Chloride.
From university of MD and MDE:
Detecting groundwater contamination requires regular testing. The Maryland Department of the Environment, the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, and most industry experts recommend for homeowners to test private well water supply no less than once a year for bacteria and nitrates. Consider seasonal testing if one sample shows elevated levels of these contaminants. Note that prolonged periods of heavy rain can flush contaminants into groundwater supplies.
At the least, test your water any time you notice unusual odors, colors, or cloudiness, or if you note an interrupted supply, such as pumping air or sediment. Contact your Health Department water quality division or call our office for information on which tests might be appropriate.
- Keep surface water runoff from puddling around the well. Grade your lot so that water drains away from your well casing. A well should not be drilled on a “low” part of your property.
- Prevent surface water from seeping down the sides of your well. Make sure your well cap is not cracked and is tightly secured. If water tests show contamination, it is recommended that a well driller check the grout.
- If your well is more than 30 years old, have it inspected by a county Health Department sanitarian or a qualified well driller to make sure that the casing is not cracked or corroded.
- Install anti-backflow devices on all faucets with hose connections, or maintain an air space between hose or faucet outlets and the water level in the container you are filling. Otherwise, you risk sucking contaminated water from laundry tubs, swimming pools, etc., back through the plumbing and into your well.
- Have your fuel oil tank tested for leaks, especially if it is installed underground. Contact your fuel supplier for assistance.
- Do not use gasoline, automotive products, solvents, pesticides, or excessive amounts of fertilizers near your well.
- Do not tie pets to the well casing. Animal waste deposited close to the well could result in contamination. Also, a large dog may break or crack the casing.
- Be careful never to hit the casing with a lawn mower or vehicle, or strike it with any force.
- Maintain your septic system. Improperly functioning septic systems are a major cause of well contamination.
- Your well should be disinfected with a chlorine solution any time work is done on the well or pump. Directions for shock chlorinating your well are available from your county Health Department. Follow the link to the MDE for a list of county health departments.
- If there are unused or abandoned wells on your property, make sure they have been properly sealed to prevent direct contamination of groundwater by surface contaminants.
Montgomery: A good initial set of tests for a private well includes hardness, alkalinity, pH, conductivity and chloride. Contact DEP for testing suggestions based on your location and risk.
- Periodically inspect the well cover and casing for wear, holes, and proper fit.
- Make sure that the ground slopes down, away from the well, for proper drainage.
- Take care when working or mowing near the well, and keep the area clean and accessible.
- Keep hazardous chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, gasoline) away from the well, and prevent spills or dumping of any harmful substance in the area.
- Always use state licensed well diggers or pump installers when servicing your well, and be sure to abide by state and county regulations.
- Test water annually, and keep a record of the results, along with records of well maintenance and conditions.
- Dispose of chemicals and hazardous substances appropriately: don’t flush, dump down drains, or dump on the ground! Call Solid Waste Services (311) for details on proper disposal.
- Clean up any oil, gasoline, pesticides, fertilizers, or household chemical spills as thoroughly and as quickly as possible. If necessary, call the Fire Department (911) or DEP (311) for help.
- Minimize your use of fertilizers and pesticides, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. These substances can easily seep into groundwater through the soil layers, where collective accumulation can lead to unhealthy levels.
- If you have an old well on your property, make sure it is properly closed and capped. Abandoned wells are a direct connection to the aquifer, providing an easy means of contamination.
- Underground storage tanks are a common cause of groundwater contamination. Be aware of the condition and location of septic or fuel tanks, and keep your septic system pumped and inspected.
The state’s minimum flow requirement for approving a new well for use is 1 gallon per minute (GPM). (Keep in mind that though allowed, 1 GPM is a low flow rate that requires spacing out typical high-volume water uses, such as bathing and washing clothes and dishes, throughout the day.)
How can I get more information?
County Please contact your local Department of Environmental Health at (410) 222-7398.
State Maryland Department of the Environment – Please contact (800) 633-6101. On-Site Systems, ext. 3778