Easy Guide to Reading Well Water Test Results

You are anxious to see the results of your well water test, but when they finally arrive, you have no idea what they actually mean. The measurements, limits, and standards are enough to confuse anybody, and unless you can decipher them properly, you will have no way of knowing if your well water needs some treatment or if it’s perfectly safe to drink. Here’s what you need to know to read your well water test results like a pro:

How Are Contaminants Measured?

Your water is full of contaminants—or substances that are not water molecules. Many of these contaminants are perfectly normal and are nothing to be alarmed about. However, if certain contaminants are too high, it could be dangerous to your family’s health.

When you get your well water test results, you will notice that each contaminant is listed by its concentration, or how much of the substance is in a preset amount of the water. For most well water tests, they are telling you how much of the contaminant can be found in a liter of water, and it will be displayed as milligrams per liter, or mg/L.

For example, it might say you have 0.2 mg/L of iron in your water. So in the one liter of water that was tested, there was 0.2 mg of iron.

What Do The Numbers on My Well Water Test Mean?

Once you see all of these numbers on your well water test results, it’s hard to know what means what. Is 0.2 mg/L of iron good or bad? That’s where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comes in. They have determined what levels of each of the contaminants are considered safe, so now it’s your job to compare your well water test results with their guidelines (found here). Yes, it takes some time, and yes, it’s worth it.

What is the Difference Between the Contaminants?

On your well water test results, you will notice there are two main types of contaminants:

  • MCLs – The substances on your well water test results that show a Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, are regulated by the primary drinking water standards. The EPA has declared these contaminants dangerous to your health if they exceed the MCL provided, and their levels are enforceable by law for public water systems. Since your home’s well water isn’t technically considered public (must serve more than 25 people per day), you aren’t breaking the law if you don’t fix any overages, but you should still get your water treated for the safety of your family.
  • Secondary Standards – Any contaminant listed on the National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs) are not harmful to your health, and it is not unlawful to exceed the recommendations. Instead, these substances may cause aesthetic or cosmetic issues, like discoloration of your teeth or a weird odor in your water. So even though these contaminants aren’t technically harmful, they are certainly not ideal.

Now that you know the basics of a well water test, you should be able to cross-reference your results with the EPA guidelines. If you discover that any of the contaminants are above their MCL level, contact Greco & Haines right away. It’s your family’s health at stake.