Water Testing And Ammonia Levels

Why should my well water get tested and for what contaminants?

There are many different reasons to get your well water tested at a laboratory. People get their

wells tested when they are having water quality problems (unusual color or odor), when they

are selling or buying a home, and when a new well is installed or an old well or well pump is

maintained. In addition, it is good practice to have your well water checked at least once a

year and even to reevaluate your drinking water source if posed with health-related problems.

Local health departments are the main regulatory agency with respect to residential wells. They

are required to maintain a list of environmental contaminants within their jurisdiction, and they

consider this information when they issue permits for new wells. Your local health department is

usually at the district or county level, and their phone number can be found in a local telephone

book or online at www.malph.org. Since the local health department tracks this contaminant

information, and contaminants are site-specifi c depending on the contaminant source, it is

worthwhile to contact the local health department to determine what contaminants may be

in your area. If a contaminant such as a petroleum product, industrial solvent, heavy metal,

herbicide, or pesticide is in the area, the health department may recommend a test for the

contaminant. When calling a local health department or health district to discuss well water

quality, ask to speak with a water sanitarian.

When buying or selling a home, some testing may be required. Some counties require that

wells be tested for certain contaminants upon the sale of a home (called “point of sale”

testing). A test for bacteria or even an “automated partial chemistry” test may be required. The

automated partial chemistry test is for the following contaminants: chloride, fl uoride, hardness,

iron, nitrate, nitrite, sodium, and sulfate. In addition to this point of sale testing, various lending

institutions require drinking water testing before mortgage approval (e.g., the Federal Housing

Administration requires testing for lead in drinking water sources before they will approve the

lending transaction), so contact both the lending institution and the local health department to

make an informed contaminant test selection decision.

Water Sample Analysis

Water sample testing detects bacterial indicators of contamination:

in drinking water and non-potable sources (i.e., sewage, pools, spa, and recreational beaches)

for investigations linked to clinical illness

Public Health Inspectors can review requirements for testing before submitting samples to PHO.

PHO Laboratory performs microbiological testing of water samples for the detection of bacterial indicators of contamination and specific pathogens in water. Each water sample is tested for specific indicators according to the water source.

If testing is required on a water source that is not listed in the PHO Laboratory water testing menu below, or testing is needed to identify specific etiological agents in water related to a laboratory confirmed clinical case or outbreak investigation, boards of health are asked to consult with the microbiologist, or designate, overseeing the water testing program prior to sample submission.

Sample collection requirements, sample handling, shipping conditions, test information including testing frequency, turnaround times and reporting limits are dependent on the specific water source. Samples will not be processed if the requisition is not completely and accurately filled in when received at the laboratory; and a new sample and completed form will be required to be submitted.

  • Drinking water (including bottled water)
  • Drinking water – Private citizen
  • Ice – Treated
  • Public Beach Water
  • Recreational Water Facilities, Public pools/Spas
  • Suspected Sewage Contamination – Water

Health and Drinking Water

Is my tap water safe to drink?

Most community water systems get a passing grade from the federal government, because drinking water regulations allow contaminants in tap water at levels greater than what scientists deem to be safe. In addition, there are many unregulated contaminants that end up in drinking water.

If you want or need better drinking water than what comes from the tap, EWG suggests buying a home water filter certified to remove or reduce the contaminants found in your tap water. EWG has developed an extensive online guide to choosing a water filter, which will help you decide which one is right for you.

Is bottled water safer than tap water?

In most situations, bottled water is not the answer. The problem with bottled water is that you cannot be sure what you are getting. Reports show that some bottled water is just tap water, filtered in some cases and untreated in others. Unlike public water suppliers, bottled water manufacturers are not required by law to disclose the levels of any contaminants in their products.

In addition to water contaminants that could come from the source water, bottled water may also be contaminated with plastic additives that can migrate from plastic packaging. Many of these additives have not been fully assessed for safety by the Food and Drug Administration, the agency with oversight over food and beverage packaging.

Bottled water may be the appropriate choice in an emergency – after major storms or earthquakes, or a large-scale infrastructure failure. In cases such as these, choose bottled water that carries a disclosure about its source and treatment, and the results of water quality testing.

How can I be clear to a laboratory that I want them to use only USEPA-approved methods?

Laboratories may be certified by MassDEP in any one or more of 132 parameters, analytes or categories. Since a laboratory might not be certified in the tests required or recommended by your local Board of Health, you should put in writing in your contract with the laboratory that it must comply with the requirements of your town’s Board of Health. Check the information on the second page of the list of certified laboratories to see if MassDEP offers certification for the analytes you are concerned about.

If you want your water tested by a certified laboratory even though you are not required to use a certified laboratory, make it clear to the laboratory that you want the test done using USEPA approved methods and according to MassDEP’s requirements for certified laboratories which are found in Massachusetts regulations at 310 CMR 42.00.

Facts about your water

General water facts

  • Canada’s water resources account for approximately 7 per cent of the world’s renewable fresh water
  • An estimated 884 million people around the world live without access to safe water
  • The human body is approximately 70 per cent water and every system in our body uses water
  • A human being can live only four to seven days without water

Local water facts

  • In the Region of Peel, tap water arrives at your home, school or business within 3 to 6 days of being taken from Lake Ontario
  • There are more than 4,000 kilometres of water mains running beneath the ground in Peel
  • There are more than 25,000 water hydrants in the Region of Peel
  • More than 300,000 homes and businesses receive safe, clean drinking water from the Region of Peel