Water Quality: Making Sure It's Safe

By The Old House Web

Water quality isn't something to be taken for granted, especially forpeople who have a well, spring or other private water supply, saysEric Norland, state specialist in natural resources with the OhioState University Extension. About 2 million Ohio households aren'tconnected to a community water system and must supply their ownwater, he says.

"People who have a private water supply are their own waterdepartment," Norland says. "They're responsible for the safety oftheir water and should have it tested annually." Testing doesn'thave to be done for every possible contaminant, Norland, says. Thatwould be expensive. But it's important to perform routine tests thatindicate possible contamination.

"Begin by testing for total coliform bacteria, nitrate, pH, and totaldissolved solids," Norland says. "If results indicate a problem,more specific testing can be done." If there is a problem, Norlandsays, you can deal with it in four ways:

  • BETTER PROTECT the water supply. For example, a rainwatercistern without gutter guards and a roof washer isn't providing enoughprotection.
  • ELIMINATE the source of contamination. For example, a well with ahigh coliform bacteria count could be receiving surface water. Keepit out by sealing the well properly.
  • GET a new water supply. That could be as simple as purchasingbottled water or as intensive as drilling a new well.
  • TREAT the water. This could be accomplished by boiling it,chlorinating it or purchasing water treatment equipment.

In maintaining a private water supply, additional precautions shouldbe taken, Norland says.

  • Test your water whenever you suspect a problem or a change inquality.
  • Keep good records. If you ever need to prove thatsomething or someone has ruined your water, you'll have to prove itwas OK at one time.
  • Have your water tested at an Ohio EPA-certifiedlaboratory, and follow the lab's instructions to get reliableresults.

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