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Water Testing | Pittsburgh PA

Home water testing basics

Water is one of our earth’s most valuable natural resources and the United States has one of the safest water supplies in the world. But water quality and treatment varies depending upon location. We often take for granted that the water coming out of the kitchen faucet is clean and safe to drink.  But, have you ever really investigated the state of the water supply in the United States, or within the locale of your local water supply?  Do you know what is in your water and how long that supply will last?

 Where does water come from? 

Water can be found in lakes, rivers or reservoirs and lots of other places like mountain springs for example. Aquifers are one of the earth’s most precious natural resources and the water in them is often referred to simply as groundwater.  These aquifers can be thought of as enormous underground lakes, or porous deposits of gravel or sediment containing the ground water. The water flows through the permeable layers and people extract the water using a variety of methods such as the private water wells and cisterns that supply homes in rural areas where access to a public water supply does not exist.  The supply of water to a private home can be supplied from lots of different sources. The geographic areas where aquifers are located can be very large, in fact, as large as hundreds of miles and can stretch across state lines.

It’s easy to say, oh no, it’s raining but remember, precipitation in the form of rain, snow, sleet or hail for example acts to replenish the supply of water in the aquifers.  The supply of water available is always important for home dwellers.  A water shortage can result when the rate of water usage exceeds the amount of precipitation that is capable of replenishing the water supply which is why you may see in certain areas of your own state, signs that say: “water your grass on odd days if your address is an odd number; water your grass on even days if your address is even.”

What is the difference between well water and a public water supplier?

Public water suppliers are regulated by organizations such as the EPA and DEP and state agencies.  On the other hand a private well is just one of several methods home owners may utilize to supply a home with water.  Private well water is not regulated. Therefore the maintenance and protection of the well is the sole responsibility of the home owner.  Home owners may want to consider having their private well tested on an annual basis which for most folks can simply be a matter of adding this activity to the usual basic home maintenance items.  It’s probably a good idea to be aware of any current activities in your local area that may affect your water quality and quantity as well.

What is Flow rate testing of private water supply?

Typically, a mortgage lender will request a water flow test be done before they will commit to loaning money to the home buyer. Absolute Safeguard Home Inspection Services Inc. can easily conduct a water flow test procedure upon request although the amount of water drawn can actually vary depending upon the season.  We look for a flow rate of 3.5 gallons per minute for 15 minutes for a period of four hours and we alternate between turning all fixtures on for 15 minutes and then turning all fixtures off for 15 minutes.

It is entirely up to the home owner and lending institution to establish guidelines for water quality and quantity inspection when requesting water supply investigation and testing.   However, we do provide the most common water tests as required by VA and FHA lenders.

What about Well Water?

Absolute Safeguard Home Inspection Services is your premiere resource for water well and flow testing.  We not only have over 19 years’ experience in the home inspection business in which we’ve inspected a wide range of water systems, due to our day to day business.  Dana Wilson personally has over 35 years of hands-on building and construction experience in well digging, trouble-shooting, design, build, repair, replacement of water systems and water testing.  Consequently, when the home has a private, on lot, water source for water, such as an artesian  well, a cistern, a dug well, a driven point well, spring water, Dana is your number one choice for consulting and inspecting these systems.  He has installed wells and their mechanical systems as well as the equipment that delivers water from the well to the house, testing wells for flow quantity and lab based bacteriological testing.

Typical water tests conducted by Absolute Safeguard Home Inspection Services Inc.

  • One water bacteriological test that analyzes for both total Coliform and E. coli (Fecal material).
  • A test for the presence of lead in water to help determine whether lead soldering or lead plumbing may exist in the home.
  • A test for high levels of nitrates and nitrites in water.

Consult with us at Absolute Safeguard Home Inspection Services Inc. to have your well water tested in our state-certified laboratory.

What is coliform?

A water bacteriological test analyzes water for the presence of both total Coliform and E. Coli.

Coliform bacteria do not necessarily cause disease for the most part and in fact they are present in the intestines of warm blooded animals. Therefore, if coliform bacteria are present in abnormally high numbers it may be possible to trace the source of the bacteria to sewage or manure as a possible contaminant and concern.   An additional test for fecal coliform bacteria or e. Coli may be called for in order to help identify, however not guarantee, from where the contamination has originated.

What is e. coli? E. coli is a type of bacteria named after a German pediatrician, Theodor Escherich who discovered the bacterium in 1885.

Most E. coli strains are not harmful to human health. A particular strain that is harmful, however is the E.coli bacteria, O157:H7, which can cause food poisoning and may be life-threatening.

E. coli infections can be especially challenging for small children and senior adults due to complications caused by dehydration and severe blood and kidney problems.

What are the problems with lead soldering or plumbing?

In 1978, the United States Consumer product safety commission banned the use of paint containing more than 0.06% lead (by weight of dried product) for residential use.  Ask your REALTOR® about the EPA and HUD lead disclosure requirements which became effective in 1996. The EPA established standards for homes that were built before 1978.  Home buyers can learn more by visiting the website of the United States Environmental Protection Agency

What are Nitrates and Nitrites?

Nitrates and nitrites are naturally occurring compounds that can be found in vegetables, animal waste and septic and sewage systems.  Both Nitrates and nitrites are the main constituents found in fertilizers containing nitrogen compounds.  Nitrates and Nitrites replenish soil that would otherwise become depleted of nitrogen.  Nitrates and nitrites can also seep into the groundwater and into shallow wells.  People should have their water tested annually for the presence of high levels of nitrates and nitrites.

Who is responsible for public drinking water quality?

The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed by Congress in 1974 and it gave the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, the authority to set national standards and protect public water systems.

The United States  Environmental Protection Agency  for more information about safe water.

For more information, visit lead,
or call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.


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