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What is in my water?
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As a private well owner, you are in a unique position: You control your own water supply. With this benefit come some responsibilities. You are responsible for protecting your valuable ground water resource as well as your family’s health. Occasionally, you may wonder about the safety of your water supply. What do you do? Testing your water for the most common well contaminants is the best course of action.


How common are water problems?

“Pure” water does not exist—all natural water contains some gases and minerals and is likely to contain some microbial organisms. Most bacteria that live in water are harmless and many are actually beneficial.


My water looks clear, smells OK, and tastes good, so how could it be bad for me?

You cannot see or smell bacteria, protozoa or many harmful chemicals. They can only be detected using tests designed for that purpose. You should check your water quality regularly. Some sources of odors are bacteria or septic contamination, or the presence of chemicals. It is a good idea to take your nose seriously. Have the water tested.


What’s the best way to maintain my good water supply?

The US EPA suggests that at a very bare minimum, every private well owner perform annual tests for coliform bacteria, nitrates, pH, specific conductance, and anything else of concern to you, even if you do not perceive a change in your water. Have your water tested by a certified drinking water laboratory, like Montana Environmental Lab at (406) 755-2131. The question of whether or not to have your water tested is a serious one that concerns the health of you and your family. If you obtain drinking water from your own well, you alone are responsible for assuring that is safe.


What should I test for?

Start with the EPA’s bare minimum. If you want to know about Fluoride, Sulfate, Hardness, Alkalinity etc. then try our $98 special. If you have concerns about lead and copper leaching out of the pipes in your house, then add those tests on. If you live in an area like the Rocky Mountains where there are arsenic problems, add on arsenic. The best deal is our $98 drinking water package. If you have concerns about heavy metals, you might look at our “Complete Inorganic” package for $350. If you have concerns about volatile organic chemicals (solvents), herbicides, or pesticides discuss the costs and sampling requirements with our laboratory personnel. In most cases we suggest doing a good package of analytes the first time, and then following that up with the EPA’s recommended annual testing to make sure that nothing has changed. Spending hundreds of dollars testing for very rare contaminants and then never testing again is not a good idea.


Where can I get more information?

For more information, look on the EPA’s website at . The U.S. EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline is (800) 426-4791. The National Radon Hotline is (800) 767-7236 The National Ground Water Association’s phone number is (800) 551-7379. More information on these topics can be found at the National Well Owners Association’s Web site, maintained by the National Ground Water Association, at


What is in My Water?