Testing Your Well Water for Bacteria  and Contaminants

Testing Your Well Water for Bacteria and Contaminants

Chris Tracey ·
Well water testing
Although some homes in the suburbs have private wells, most wells of this nature occur in rural areas where there is no municipal water available. Unlike water provided by a town or city, the homeowner is completely responsible for the condition of the well water. Even if your drinking water seems to be clean and safe to drink, it’s important to get it tested regularly to make sure that it isn’t contaminated in some way.

Problems with Well Water

Many rural areas have been used for animal husbandry and an accumulation of animal waste products can infiltrate into the water supply. Even if animals have not been present on the property for a number of years, it’s still possible that the ground water could be contaminated.

However, animal waste is not the only problem that could involve the integrity of a rural well; many agricultural concerns used pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and herbicides. Not only would these substances be sprayed on the area, but inadequate storage could also have caused these chemicals to leak into the ground water, and the well.

Older wells are often equipped with motors that sit on top of the well casing to drive the pump. It has been found that these motors can leach carcinogens directly into the water.

Where your well is situated also will have a bearing on the possibility of contamination – wells should be at least 75 feet away from septic systems. They should also be ‘uphill’ from these systems to prevent sewage from leaking into the well during rainstorms.

Getting Your Well Water Tested

When you have decided to get your well water tested, be sure to submit your water sample to a state and EPA approved testing laboratory. Testing is recommended every spring, and if there has been any disturbance of the well site, such as flooding or work on the system itself. A state health agency can give you a list of qualified labs to conduct the testing of the follow potential problems:

  • Coliform bacteria
  • Dissolved solids
  • Nitrates
  • VOCs
  • Heavy metals

Depending upon how many tests are conducted, you can expect to pay anywhere from a low of about $30 all the way up to $400, and testing will take approximately 2 weeks.


Hopefully, your well water will come through testing with flying colors, and you can relax for another year. However, should your water be contaminated in any way, there are several approaches that you can take:

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