What's the general state of well water in the U.S., and how often should I have mine tested?
Here's some of what I learned: Here in Indianapolis, the County Health Department will do free well tests for homeowners--as long as the test is not required in the process of a real estate transaction. If you are buying or selling the property, you have to get a private party to test the well, and pay $300 or more. (I think that is a liability issue.) But if you just want to check the chemistry of the water in your well, they'll come check it out. Consider calling your local health department and asking about this service. As with many county agencies, the response time wasn't too quick.
Our health department lets a homeowner gather his own samples and bring them to the lab. For a $30 fee, they provided me with 3 different sample bottles and the fee covered the testing once I brought the samples back. They also gave me detailed instructions on how to collect the sample. There were a few simple, but important, proceedures to follow, such as:
* Allow the water to fun 5 minutes before gathering the sample to ensure the water is coming from the well, rather than water that had been stagmant in the pipes.
* Don't collect water that has run through a garden hose or any unnecessary fixture.
* Keep the samples on ice, but not packed next to chemical freezer pack as they can be so cold as to kill bacteria, and you want to know if there are live bacteria.
About a week after I returned the samples, I got test results for the three different tests: nitrates/nitrites, bacteria, and heavy metals. I also got the phone number of a lab technician with whom I discussed the details of my results. In our case, there was one test result that caused some minor concern. A conversation with my plumber who is familiar with wells pointed me to a simple, do-it-yourself remedy. We retested, and all was "well." When it came time to sell the house, the buyers (who had to pay for a test of their own) had no issues.
Your health department is there to serve and protect you. Ask them what they can do to address your concerns. Findings of the first test results may indicate how often you need to do follow-up testing. A little research can pay big returns. In the same case, I found that connecting to city was was going to cost, $4,000 in tap fees, meter fees and permits, and that's before excavating and laying the water line. Be well!