New Homeowners' To-Do List Should Include Well Water Testing

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[May 06, 2016]    Looking for that special house in the country? Don’t forget to have the well tested to ensure safe drinking water, advises Steve Wilson, groundwater hydrologist at the Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois.

In Illinois, no laws require that private wells are tested for contaminants. When obtaining a mortgage loan, banks and federal programs often require testing, but the analysis may not cover certain contaminants that have caused a local concern.

Arsenic has been found in well water in Tazewell County and in other areas. Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soils, and is used in various industries.

Check with your local health department for their recommendations on well water testing, advises Wilson. Local or state offices should be able to offer advice on contaminants that have been found in water locally. In addition, once you have the well tested, they can help you interpret the results.

“When buying a property, have the well water tested,” Wilson said. “Even if you have to pay for the analysis yourself, it is worthwhile.”

Each year, wells should be tested for coliform bacteria and nitrate. When purchasing a new home, well water should also be tested for fluoride, iron, lead, manganese, sulfate, pH, copper, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, chloride, and total dissolved solids. Regular testing can indicate changes.

“Groundwater quality doesn’t change dramatically, so if there is a change over time, it could indicate a breach in the well or some other change worth investigating,” Wilson said. “Coliform bacteria may not make you sick, but it indicates a possible pathway into your well. If there’s a pathway into your well, viruses, bacteria of all kinds, and other contaminants can enter the well. This is something that you’ll want to investigate.”

New homeowners who are interested in learning how to maintain their own wells can take the Private Well Class, offered by the Illinois State Water Survey and Illinois Water Resources Center. The class is a free, step-by-step online education program to help well owners understand groundwater basics, well care best practices, and how to find assistance.

For more information, visit the Private Well Class website -  or e-mail

[Lisa A. Sheppard]

The Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a division of the Prairie Research Institute, is the primary agency in Illinois concerned with water and atmospheric resources.


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