Test your water for peace of mind

By Karen Mancl

Every day in the news we hear a lot about testing. COVID-19 tests give us assurance that we are not sick and passing on the virus. School testing is looking at student progress in the wake of virtual learning. But what about the water we use in the home? If you pay a water bill, the water company must test the water and send you a report once a year in the water bill. They must also notify you if the water exceeds safe limits. However, if your home is served by a private well, no tests are required. It is up to the property owner to test the water to ensure that it is safe to use for their family and visitors.

Fortunately, in Ohio more than two dozen testing labs accept water samples from the public to test it for bacteria contamination or toxic chemicals like lead. Labs are located throughout the state so you can find a lab close by. A list of testing labs is now posted online along with advice on what to test for and how to address a contamination problem. 

Always contact the lab and request a sample container before collecting a sample. The containers must be specially cleaned and prepared to ensure an accurate test. Also follow the directions in collecting the sample and get it quickly to the lab. Some tests require that the sample be kept cold.

Most of the time the test should reveal that the well is safe. That not only gives you peace of mind but is also the evidence you need if the well is damaged in the future. A well test may also be required when you plan to sell the property. 

To find out more about water testing look for the OSU Extension fact sheets AEX 314 Household Water Testing and AEX 315 Where to Have Your Water Tested. You can find them online at the website for the OSU Soil Environment Technology Learning Lab at SETLL.osu.edu. If the test reveals a water problem, you will also find information on how to treat and better protect your water.

Karen Mancl is a Professor in the Ohio State University Department of Food, Agricultural & Biological Engineering. This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. For more information, Mancl can be reached at 614-292-4505 or Mancl.1@osu.edu.

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