What you need to know about well water testing | News

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What you need to know about well water testing
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YARMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Center for Disease Control is urging Mainers to get their well water tested for a host of naturally occurring compounds that can cause health problems over time if left untreated. Arsenic, uranium, fluoride, radon and bacteria are just some of the substances commonly found in well water in Maine.

"The majority of issues that make the phone ring are for taste, smell and visible characteristics that are not harmful to our customers," said Kevin Kaserman, a division manager for Mr. H2O/Dunbar Water. "You can have arsenic, uranium, radon and bacteria - all things that can absolutely cause harm, but there is no indicator to the homeowner."

The problem is, if it's clear and looks fine, people often assume it is safe.

"There is no relationship to clear water and safe water," he said.

There are numerous companies that conduct water quality tests and provide treatment solutions, but Kaserman said homeowners should use accredited, independent lab to test their water, rather than relying on testing companies.

"We always want a certified lab test, which is done by a state certified lab that tells the homeowner what is in their water," he said. "You don't want to be buying water treatment equipment on the appointment, because the treatment company, whether it be us or any other treatment company, cannot tell you on-site, reliably, if the water is safe."

He said it is a good idea to include tests for radon and uranium, which are not always included in standard tests, because of their prevalence in Maine.

"The only way to know if your water is safe is to test it," said Lorri Mailing, lab manager at Nelson Analytical Lab in Kennebunk.

"We find a lot of arsenic. Arsenic is naturally occurring in this area," said Mailing. "We find a lot of bacteria, especially after heavy rains and floods. Bacteria is one of the most common problems people have with their well. We are finding a lot of uranium, a lot of radon in air and water, those are the main health risks that we find."

She said once the lab receives a sample, it is assigned a number so technicians have no idea who's water sample they are testing or where the water is from. The samples go through a battery of different tests to check their pH and bacteria levels. Other samples are screened for nitrates and for the presence of any contaminants or naturally occurring chemicals. Once the tests are complete, the results are compiled in a report and shipped off to the customer.

"People don't realize you really should test your bacteria and your nitrite (levels) every year, and do your full water test every three to five years because water is constantly changing," said Mailing.

"(Once you) have your results and you can shop for a filter," she said. "Tell people 'this is what is in my water,' because before you get a filter, you need to know what you are treating."

Kaserman agreed and said once the results come back, people should shop around to find the right treatment options if a problem is discovered.

"Most people fear that systems are thousands of dollars, and they range from a few hundred up to two thousand dollars," he explained.

Fortunately, Kaserman said the majority of the tests have good results.

The Maine CDC has created a website, full of resources for people looking for more information about well water testing - including a 'how to' video on testing your water.


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