Private Well Water Testing

What Should I Test For?

Maybe it’s something about the taste.  Maybe it just looks cloudy.  Maybe you are wondering about that nearby gas station, onsite sewer treatment system, factory, or farm.  There are many legitimate reasons to be concerned about your private well water quality.  Luckily, there are answers.

Some common contaminants are concern for “nuisance” reasons only – a funny taste or smell that has no health ramification, or something else that will stain porcelain or clothes.

Some have significant, even serious, health ramifications.

You need to know what’s in your water in order to respond.

Here is the U.S. EPA’s list of reasons to test your water.

EPA Well Test List


EPA Drinking Water Standards

All Virginians should be concerned about groundwater protection and private well owners need to be vigilant about threats to their water supply. The Virginia Department of Health recommends that private well owners consider treatment or investigate alternative sources if they find contaminants in their well exceeding any Primary Maximum Contaminant Levels (PMCL) as found at Environmental Protection Agency’s Primary Maximum Contaminant Level.


Do you need more detailed information?  Here it is:


Arsenic in private wells Nitrate in private wells
Bacteria in private wells Radionuclides in private wells
Lead in private wells
CLICK to Learn Where You Can Get Your Water Tested

This is a good question; most people don’t use laboratories in everyday life.

The Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services is responsible for the accreditation of commercial laboratories under the Virginia Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (VELAP).  You can find a current listing of accredited laboratories HERE.  Most commercial laboratories can provide you with everything you need for your well sampling event, including sample containers, preservatives, and detailed instructions on the procedure to collect the sample.

Another source is the Virginia Household Water Quality Program administered through the Virginia Cooperative Extension, which offers low cost annual water well testing/drinking water clinics at various locations throughout Virginia.

Your next question might be what do these results mean?  It’s one thing to find your results to be non-detectable, it’s something else if a particular result is so many parts per billion or parts per million.  Is it good or bad?

One way to understand your results is to ask the lab that did the testing. An alternative approach is to ask your Local Health Department (LDH).

A third option is to use an online tool that allows you to type your water test results into the tool to automatically get simple explanations about the potential health risks, treatment options and more.  The Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio Department of Health, and the Ohio EPA developed a service called Water Test Interpretation Tool.  With this tool, you can enter your test result to quickly obtain general information, recommendation regarding response, health effects, treatment options, and resource listings for further information.