H2M Labs has been providing drinking water analysis to private and public water supply clients since 1957. Whether you are serviced by a municipality or own a home with a private well, H2M can help you decide the testing to be done to determine the quality of your water. Please contact a customer service representative to schedule an appointment.
My water test result was positive for total coliform bacteria and E. coli bacteria. What is this and how did it get into my drinking water?
The most basic test for bacterial contamination of a water supply is the test for total coliform bacteria. There are many types of coliform bacteria. They can be present in the digestive tracts of animals, including humans, and in plant and soil material. Most coliform bacteria do not cause disease. E. coli is a type of fecal coliform. The presence of fecal coliforms in the water supply is an accurate indication of animal or human waste contamination. During rainfalls, snow melts, or other types of precipitation, E. coli may be washed into creeks, rivers, streams, lakes, or groundwater. When these waters are used as sources of drinking water and the water is not treated, E. coli may end up in drinking water.
If your well tests positive for E. coli, do not drink the water unless you boil it for at least one minute at a rolling boil, longer if you live at high altitudes. You may also disinfect the well according to procedures recommended by your local health department. Your water should be monitored periodically after disinfection to make certain that the problem does not recur. If the contamination recurs, you should investigate the feasibility of drilling a new well or install a point-of-entry disinfection unit, which can use chlorine, ultraviolet light, or ozone.
What are nitrates and are they harmful to my health?
Nitrate (NO3) is a water soluble molecule made up of nitrogen and oxygen. It is a naturally occurring form of nitrogen found in the soil. Public water supplies are tested regularly for its presence. A nitrate test is recommended for all newly constructed wells. Testing of the water supply is also recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for infants due to the risk of a condition called methaemoglobinemia (commonly known as "blue baby syndrome").
Some of the more common ways nitrates enter the water supply are from chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, sewage, septic tanks and industrial wastewaters. They are also a by-product of decomposing vegetation. The EPA has set a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for nitrate at 10 mg/L.
My son's blood test came back positive for lead. His doctor recommended that I have my water tested for lead. What are some other sources of lead contamination? How can I have my water tested for lead?
People can get lead poisoning from a variety of sources. Major sources of lead exposure include lead in paint, water distribution systems, food, and lead used in hobby activities. All U.S. children are exposed to some lead from food, air, dust, and soil, however, lead-based paint is the most widespread and dangerous high-dose source of lead exposure for preschool children. Drinking water can also have dangerously high levels of lead. The water becomes contaminated as it moves through the water distribution system. The lead leaches into the water from lead pipes or connectors; lead solder used to connect pipes and fumes; brass fixtures; and lead lined tanks in water coolers. One should never drink the first water from the tap for this reason.
H2M recommends that you collect 2 water samples from the same source (eg, kitchen sink). The first sample should be a "first draw" of water that has not been used for a minimum of 6 hours. This result will confirm or deny that there is lead leaching into your water from the plumbing. The second sample should be a "flush" sample. The flush sample is collected after the water has been allowed to run for a period of time long enough to ensure the water being delivered is fresh from the water main (2-5 minutes). If there was a high amount lead in the "first draw" sample, and a reduced or undetected amount in the "flush" sample, then you can safely assume that letting the water run prior to use will ensure that you are not consuming lead in your water.
I own home and get my drinking water from a well. How can I make sure the water is safe to drink?
The EPA recommends that you consider testing your well for pesticides, organic chemicals, and heavy metals before you use it for the first time. Test private water supplies annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. Test them more frequently if you suspect a problem. Be aware of activities in your watershed that may affect the water quality of your well, especially if you live in an unsewered area.
I am buying a home on Long Island with a private well and the bank is requiring a water test. What do I need to test for?
Most homes will require a "Comprehensive Homeowners Test" which includes coliform bacteria, lead, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, nitrates, chloride, ammonia, pH, conductivity, detergents, and volatile organic compounds (VOC's). Certain areas that have been impacted by Temik, an agricultural pesticide, will need to test for this contaminant also. Please contact the laboratory to schedule an appointment to have your water tested.
What are "maximum contaminant levels"?
Maximum contaminant levels are limits set on the level of contaminants allowable in drinking water. Maximum contaminant levels were established by the EPA to ensure that the water is safe for people to drink.
How can I find out information about my water system?
All community water systems are required to publish an Annual Water Quality Report. These reports provide comprehensive information about your water system including what treatments are provided, where your water comes from, and the quality of the water delivered to your home. You can check your water bill to find out how to contact your public water supplier directly. Alternatively, you may call your local health department or state district office. In addition, the EPA maintains information about water systems.