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How To Know What To Test Your Water For

 

Which of these purification devices do you need? To know if you need any at all you will need to test your water. Most toxic contaminants are odorless, colorless, tasteless and undetectable without testing or becoming ill - often slowly as with cancer.

 

 

Do what the trained and knowledgeable experts throughout this country suggest. On a first water analysis, regardless of the source of water (municipal, well, private system) to test for coliforms, fecal coliforms, perform a basic mineral, metal and anion analysis, and test for specific substances that may be suspected to be found locally in the ground or surface water in your area. The typical set of first test parameters would look like this: (we have included our prices so you have a frame of reference) 

I. Rapid ScreenTotal Cost ONLY $98.00 includes

1.                 Coliforms AND

2.                 E. coli test as well as all of following

3.                 Visual Examination by a professional microbiologist*

4.                 Microscopic Examination by a professional microbiologist *

5.                 Filtration, staining and microscopic examination of retentate by a Ph.D. Microbiologist

6.                 Temperature*,

7.                 Conductivity*,

8.                 Nitrate,

9.                 pH*,

10.             Total Dissolved Solids*

11.             Color*

12.             Turbidity* (Many companies will charge over $100.00 for this test alone!)

14.             Arsenic Screen Test*

 

PLUS (on first round testing):

II. GAESL Basic Mineral and Metals Analysis with Acid Digest (add $60.00)  This will include tests for all of the following:

Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Aluminum, Boron, Copper, Zinc, Sodium, Cadmium, Nitrogen, Chromium, Molybdenum, and Lead (P, K, Ca, Mg, Mn, Fe, Al, B, Cu, Zn, Na, Cd, N, Cr, Mo, Pb)

 

AND (on first round testing):

III. GAESL Anion Analysis by ICP (add $45.00) This will include tests for all of the following:

Chloride, Fluoride, Phosphate, Sulfate

 

The complete set of tests listed above are recommended on a first-time testing and we offer them for $198.00. But we encourage you to search for a better price anywhere, and if you find it we will match that price, provided it includes all these test parameters. We need results from all these parameters so we can advise a client correctly on what, if any water treatment they may need to install.

 

After the first-time testing, we (and the EPA) recommends the first set of tests ($98.00) be done annually to monitor your water for changes that WILL occur, but cannot be predicted.

 

The following are recommended if you have indications of contamination:

 

IV. IRB: Iron Reducing and Oxidizing Bacteria ($60.00)

 

V. SRB: Sulfur Reducing Bacteria ($60.00)

 What if_you_have_not_had_a_water_test_within_the last 3_years?

Also, depending on where you reside you may need several additional tests for compound suspected or known to contaminate water sources in that region. For example, in our area we have discovered arsenic in approximately 1 out of each 25 wells tested. We therefore recommend that our clients include this in their first round of testing.

So why test for these parameters as opposed to others? Because each of these will give you knowledge of a specific problem you should correct for health or economic reasons or provides an indication that a potential problem that requires further analysis may exist. It’s just not practical (unless you have huge sums of money) to perform the kind of analysis that water treatment plants and bottling companies must perform on an ANNUAL basis. Even these large organizations only perform such thorough testing once a year. The least expensive, complete battery of tests they are required to perform annually costs approximately $3,000 to $5,000 to perform. And even these very elaborate tests do NOT test for all possible water contaminants, so it is possible that some may slip through.

 However, despite the fact that you are not spending thousands of dollars, you can actually have better water than they provide, and conduct a testing regime that fits your budget. You will actually save money over purchasing bottled water all year and will be freed from depending on how effective the water or sewage treatment plants are at removing contaminants on limited budgets and with strained facilities. We have developed the following strategy to make this possible. Lets begin by looking at all the possible water contaminants that have been identified by scientists and government agencies to date, and some water treatments specific for organic compounds.

One can group all known contaminants into the following 6 major groups.

1.      Minerals and metals (inorganic chemicals) – including specific special concerns

a.      Arsenic (regional), hardness, alkalinity, iron, nitrate, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, aluminum, boron, copper, zinc, sodium, cadmium, nitrogen (all forms), chromium, molybdenum, lead, total chlorine, free chlorine, chloride, fluoride, phosphate, sulfate, etc.

2.      Physical / chemical quality

a.      pH, temperature, conductivity, total dissolved solids, color, turbidity, etc.

3.      Biological

a.      Coliforms, e. coli (fecal coliforms), cryptosporidium, giardia, hepatitis virus, enteric viruses, pseudomonads, salmonella, and non-disease causing but, filter inactivating / clogging organisms such as the slime producing iron reducing bacteria (IRB’s) and sulfur reducing bacteria (SRB’s) and organisms that cause skin disease and swimmers ear” in Jacuzzis and hot tubs and swimming pools, etc.

4.      Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)

a.      Includes fuels, fuel additives, industrial solvents, paint thinners, industrial chemicals, plasticizers, chloroform, acetone, toluene, xylene, and a variety of chemicals available for home use by the general public, etc. All are organic, and all will “evaporate”. They can be removed by activated charcoal filtration and air stripping, but NOT distillation

5.      Non-volatile synthetic organic compounds (SOC’s)

a.      Includes pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, termiticides, fungicides, etc., and many agricultural, gardening, lawn and home care products used freely by consumers. Activated carbon filters, distillation, or reverse osmosis will remove them.

6.      Radiological (radioactive)

a.      Are generally caused by high levels of uranium in the soil. If you have reason to suspect this kind of contamination, let us know and we will help you with obtaining the testing you need. Area geological studies will often help you determine whether this should even be a concern to you. In most places it is NOT, but if you have radon in the air in your home, or you have any doubt, you should definitely test your water for radioactive substances.

Some of these groups actually contain thousands of compounds, but this is how they are presented on laboratory analysis reports to the agencies requesting the tests.   There are many specific compounds in each group that have not been listed individually, but all known contaminants of water are contained in one of the above. Each of these headings can further be broken down into smaller groups, but for our purposes this covers all the known contaminants that are typically found to be of health or economic concern to the average homeowner.

If you test and treat properly for all the compounds in these groups you will be certain to have pure, safe, and healthy water. And this is simpler and less expensive than you might believe. All it requires is a good analysis and purification strategy. One without the other will either increase the cost or reduce your water quality. If you are not very interested in why this works, now would be a good time to skip to the last paragraph on this page. If you would like to understand how this works, please read on. And please note that every scrap of information on this site is supported by years of scientific studies and data from the most prestigious research institutions, government and private watchdog organizations, and public health institutions in the world. They include, but are not limited to the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Academy of Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Protection Divisions, the Department of Agriculture, the United States Geological Survey, and literally scores of others both national and international.

VOC’s (#4 above) and SOC’s (#5 above) should be a serious concern to anyone drinking water today. They have been found in surface and ground water virtually everywhere in North America where there has been any agricultural or gardening activity. They are also some of the most expensive compounds to test for and there are literally thousands of different compounds (the EPA lists over 100), so testing for each one is out of the question even for government agencies. They test for the most likely contaminants in a given area and even then it costs hundreds to thousands of dollars. The great thing about these compounds is that they can be removed by activated carbon filtration and activated carbon filtration technology is very affordable. So why test for them? Just install an activated carbon filtration system and make sure it is operating properly (is not being fouled by biological agents - IRB’s, SRB’s, Slime bacteria or being inactivated by chemicals). If your water has already been processed once, such as water coming from a municipal water treatment plant, the activated carbon can also help remove small amounts of the chlorine that remain in the water due to their processing activities and any organic contaminants that the water picks up during its journey through the public distribution system and to your home. Selecting the best brand / type and proper maintenance of the filtration system is very important, and periodic testing to insure the integrity of the system is also important, but in this case you do not need to know which contaminant is present to take appropriate measures to remove it. Most public water systems use this very same approach.

Biological contaminants (#3 above) are generally not tested for directly. Again, the expense is prohibitive. But coliforms and fecal coliforms are an accepted way of testing water for contamination by fecal material, and therefore determining whether disease causing (pathogenic) bacteria, viruses, or protozoans (such as giardia or “crypto”) are likely to be present in the water. Groundwater (wells) and surface water supply sources are constantly changing as new chemicals added to the soil find their way down into the water table, and changing recharge and withdrawal rates from aquifers cause changes in underground water flow directions. Since biological contamination is one of the most likely routes of transmitting disease to man, the EPA has seen fit to require municipal water and sewage treatment systems to test water leaving their facilities from once or twice daily to hundreds of times daily, depending on how many people they serve. The EPA recommends that private well and water systems test their water at least once a year. We recommend semiannual testing – preferably in spring and fall, because these are the most likely times for major water table fluctuations.

Ok, so you’ve tested for coliforms and fecal coliforms twice a year, and you have a good activated carbon filter to remove organic contaminants. Your water must be safe now! Well, maybe. If you have substantial growth of bacteria in the system, they will “clog”, “coat”, and inactivate your filtration system. Water flow may not be reduced dramatically even if the active surface of the filter is completely covered by bacteria, and the filter is being “blocked” from serving its purpose. On the first round of testing, and every 3 to 5 years thereafter, it is a good idea to test for slime producing SRB’s and IRB’s. Their removal will insure proper filter operation and very often their presence goes unnoticed until a “rotten egg” odor or slime appears in and on plumbing etc. By this time they have produced a biofilm on all internal surfaces of the plumbing that is impossible to remove completely. It is best to test for them within a few months of establishing a new water supply, then, if the results are positive, chlorine shock the system properly to kill all the organisms, and prevent further problems. For additional information, please refer to other resources on our web site – www.awsa.info.

This leaves us with #1 and #2 from the list above. If any of the mineral or metal contaminants fall outside normal or acceptable range, they require a unique solution to correct, so it is important to test for them individually. Mercury and several other toxic substances have been omitted from this list only to keep costs as low as possible, yet still test for the most likely problems. We have very carefully chosen a group of contaminants (test parameters) to include in our initial testing and rapid screen testing, that will provide the information needed to determine whether or not a purification device (or system) is needed and to PROPERLY design such a purification system if one is needed. We cannot tell you how many of our clients have installed "water softening" or treatment systems they did not need. Please, consult a water quality professional to determine whether or not you need any purification and to determine whether there is any heightened risk in your area for any particular contaminant due to past or current industrial or agricultural activity. In the North Georgia area, for example, arsenic is known to occur naturally in the sediments and groundwater in certain areas, and to have been used agriculturally in some places. So this is a compound that should be tested for in those areas (Ex. many counties in Georgia). Mercury has been used in gold mining and other industrial activities, so water supplies in those areas should be tested for that element. Asbestos mining has also been conducted in this area. And so forth.

The same thing is true for radiological contamination (# 6 above). For obvious reasons, your best resources in these cases are independent companies outside government who are on the cutting edge of analysis and purification technology. 1) They are not bound by what their particular agency wants the public to know, and 2) they do not sell a product that will help you remove the offending contaminant, and 3) they will be able to draw information from a much broader array of reliable sources and not be confined to providing the information their particular agency gives them.

Finally (# 2 above), physical / chemical quality pH, temperature, conductivity, total dissolved solids, color, turbidity. These parameters reflect changes in biological, mineral, and metal contaminants without testing for them individually. Thus, they are excellent “screening” tools that allow one to assess if there have been any major changes in the source water supply, without the expense of testing for all the individual contaminants. If these tests are performed at the same time as the mineral and metal testing (initial testing), then they can be used as baseline values for future physical / chemical tests. That is, this can make more routine water testing affordable for the average person, by providing warning that something in their water has changed, without necessarily testing for each individual chemical and identifying the specific change. This is much cheaper than running the full gamut of biological, mineral, metal, and chemical tests each time. Yes, it is a tradeoff, but in our professional judgment it is better than NO testing because it gives warning that a serious change has occurred since the last tests, and alerts us to conduct individual tests to determine what has changed.

We therefore suggest that you have the “complete” series of inorganic chemical and physical tests, the coliform, E. coli (fecal coliform), IRB, and SRB testing performed initially. Follow up with the rapid screen on a semi-annual or annual basis ($98.00) and install an activated carbon filtration unit to remove SOC’s and VOC’s. You should also consult a professional to be sure that you have the best advice concerning any additional testing. If you do these things, take corrective action if you have abnormal values in any of the tested parameters, maintain your purification system properly, then you will save money by 1) not needing to purchase bottled water (even if you purchase purification equipment and perform routine testing), 2) avoiding health risks to fetus, baby and family, 3) avoiding premature replacement of water heaters, pumps, and plumbing, 4) saving energy and 5) saving cost on cleaning products, and you will know you are drinking the best water you can get anywhere.

 For  more details please read on:

 Of course the only sure way to know what your water contains is to perform continuous monitoring of all possible contaminants or perform continuous purification for all possible contaminants and perform continuous monitoring of the purified water. For everyone, including the government, this has been deemed to be impractical because of the labor and expense. So it’s pretty simple to see that an alternative method must be chosen.

 The first test should include the complete series shown above (I, II, III, IV, and V). Testing in subsequent YEARS (as the EPA recommends) usually only requires an annual Rapid Screen ($98.00) or annual Coliform and E. coli ($35.00) (depends on what level of safety you prefer). Without the complete series determining which purification technology, if any, would be best is simply a guess. With results from the whole series, it is possible to provide you with recommendations on exactly what kind of purification system or filters you should use to purify your water to levels exceeding municipal, bottled, or raw well water quality. You may not need any purification devices. If so, we tell you. We do not sell any! But if you do, we can then guarantee your water to be free of all EPA listed toxic contaminants at your tap unless the system fails or is not maintained properly. Consumer reports say the average family would save over $300.00 per year on bottled water alone, and you would have complete personal control over your family’s water quality!

 

Notice the biofilm that has formed on the inside of the bottle above. This is what happens to your purification /  filtration system and plumbing if it is left untreated. This was a sample collected from a client's well and left standing in a refrigerator for several weeks. It was clear and uncolored when it was collected.

     

Leftmost is a culture tube just after addition of a water sample. Notice the water is clear and the residue at bottom is sterile "food" to allow for growth of bacteria if they are present. The middle tube shows iron reducing bacteria after only 3 days incubation. The rightmost tube shows the deposits left by sulfur reducing bacteria that were obtained in a sample from a household well after 13 days incubation. Note that both the positive tubes had clear liquid at the start. All discoloration and a visible deposit is just what happens in your well, plumbing, and purification system if these bacteria are present.

We are not connected with any government agency, or regulatory entity.

If you have not had a water test within 3 years, then your first water test should include ALL of the following:

Coliforms

E. coli (or fecal coliforms)

Microscopic exam by a qualified professional microbiologist

Temperature

Conductivity (electrical conductivity)

pH

Nitrate

Total Dissolved Solids

Color

Turbidity

Free Chlorine

Total Chlorine

Total Hardness

Total Alkalinity

Phosphorus

Potassium

Calcium

Magnesium

Manganese

Iron

Aluminum

Boron

Copper

Zinc

Sodium

Cadmium

Nitrogen

Chromium

Molybdenum

Chloride

Fluoride

Phosphate

Sulfate

Nitrate

 

 

Because of the geology of the region, if you live in North Georgia you should also have your drinking water tested for: 

Arsenic (we have already found wells in White County that have arsenic in excess of safe levels)

Lead

Mercury

 The results of this series of tests may indicate that there is NO need for any treatment of your water. In that case the EPA recommends annual retesting for a more limited group of parameters, which are less expensive.

Annual retesting is a must, because groundwater flow is constantly changing, especially with all the new building, well drilling, old wells being closed etc. So your water this year may be fine, but in a few weeks you may be getting very different water from your well. Annual testing gives you some assurance that your water is still safe. And testing is affordable!!!

We recommend and currently offer an annual test for $98.00. (a $280.00 value for less than the cost of a tank of gasoline or an evening's entertainment). The test includes ALL of the following parameters:

Coliforms

E. coli (or fecal coliforms)

Microscopic exam by a qualified professional microbiologist

Temperature

Conductivity (electrical conductivity)

pH

Nitrate

Total Dissolved Solids

Color

Turbidity

Free Chlorine

Total Chlorine

Total Hardness

Total Alkalinity

 

 

$35.00 for coliform and E. coli test. $50.00 for next day results

$65.00 Basic Chemistry - screen for basic toxic chemicals (incl. nitrates, arsenic), hardness, and minerals

$105 Basic mineral, toxic chemicals, metals, hardness, and anion analysis with acid digest and by ICP - over 30 parameters

$198.00 for extended analysis including coliforms, E. coli, toxic metals, minerals, hardness, iron, sulfur, etc

Bacterial Testing including IRB or SRB or SLM: $60.00 each- to detect filter / purification device inactivating organisms or $120 for any two or $119 for all three (recommended)

Coliforms & E. coli & Microscopic exam & Basic Chemistry plus recommended toxic metals and minerals, and SRB’s and IRB’s AND SLIME bacteria only $336.00 (plus $80.85 IF you live outside our area for special round-trip shipping and handling for a total of only $403.85 no matter where you live in the USA outside a 25 mile radius of Cleveland, Georgia)

These prices, our turnaround times, and the accompanying professional services are the best you can get anywhere. WE GUARANTEE IT

What HUD / FHA requires: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/ref/sfh1-21b.cfm B: HUD testing requirements, as stated in Mortgagee Letter 95-34, are the minimum standards acceptable for FHA insured mortgages. This includes at a minimum lead, (first flush) nitrate, nitrite, total nitrate/nitrite, total coliforms, and fecal coliforms or E.coli. If state and local agencies impose additional standards, they too must be met.

What the EPA recommends: Annual Testing

 

 

Site visits are not always necessary!  Send samples direct to us. Call us for full details or click here

 

 

03/22/2017

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Last modified by Dr. Eberhard Essich dr_e@awsa.info: 03/22/17