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Why and How to Test Your Well Water

By Bill Rubin, Guest Author

Over three million North Carolinians get their drinking water from private wells, but not all private wells provide safe, drinkable water. Nothing’s more important to your quality of life and health than having well water you KNOW is safe. Store-bought test kits don’t give you the detection level you need to ensure water safety, and generally only test for one or two possible contaminants. Luckily our state can help you test your water to be sure it’s pure.

In 2008, as a result of advocacy by Clean Water for NC and other safe water groups, as well as Environmental Health Directors, well water testing became mandatory for all new North Carolina wells. If your well was drilled after July 2008, then you can look up your original well water analysis with your county environmental health director or well program director, and request a new set of tests every few years, to be sure nothing’s changed. But if you have a well drilled before 2008, it might have never been tested for either bacterial or chemical contamination. We strongly recommend you invest the $150 to $200 to test for the most common bacterial and chemical contaminants, including contaminants like arsenic that occur naturally.

Clean Water for North Carolina recommends testing for total coliform, arsenic, lead, zinc, other metals, as well as nitrates, and nitrites every 3-5 years. This is the minimum standard statewide well testing recommendation. NC Health and Human Services has a similar recommended testing schedule.

How do you test? The first step is to call your county environmental health director. If you’re not sure what to test for, your county director or Clean Water for North Carolina can help with recommendations.

Unfortunately our legislature has cut well program budgets in recent years, removing subsidies and thus making tests more expensive.  This table will enable you to find your county’s  recent price schedule. Contact your county environmental director if you’re concerned about your ability to pay, as some counties offer assistance.

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