Water Testing

On-site water wells should be tested to ensure that the water is both safe to drink and that it meets the applicable standards of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. There are two basic water tests:

Bacteriological Water Test

The bacteriological water test is used to determine if the water is safe to drink by testing for the presence of coliform bacteria.

The presence of coliform bacteria is an indication that other harmful bacteria may be present. If any of the many species of coliform bacteria are detected, additional testing is done to determine if fecal coliform bacteria is present. Fecal coliform bacteria is present in human waste, and its presence may indicate that the well is being contaminated by a nearby on-site septic system.

Water wells contaminated with bacteria can usually be made safe to use by disinfecting the water with chlorine or an ultraviolet treatment system.

Chemical Water Test

The standard chemical water analysis is used to determine the levels of the following contaminants:

  • pH
  • Total Iron
  • Nitrate N as NO3
  • Hardness
  • N Nitrate
  • N Nitrite
  • Total Solids
  • Alkalinity
  • Corrosivity
Contaminant Potential Effect Possible Remedy
Nitrate or Nitrite Can cause Blue Baby Syndrome in children under six months of age Reverse Osmosis, anion exchange resin.
pH Bitter, metallic taste, corrosion Acid neutralizer or chemical feed pump
Hardness Scale formation, increased soap consumption, deposits on skin & hair Water softener
Iron or Manganese Off-colored water, metallic taste,  red, black or orange stains Water softener & sediment filter, or oxidizing filter
Total Solids Hardness, deposits, colored water, staining, saltiness Reverse osmosis
Corrosivity Metallic taste, corrosion, stained fixtures Acid neutralizer
Lead Mental or physical development delays in children, kidney problems & high blood pressure in adults Reverse osmosis, carbon filter, mixed bed de-ionizer, water softener.


Useful Links

PADEP Private Wells
EPA Private Wells
National Ground Water Association
National Well Owner’s Association
PADEP Disinfection of Home Wells*
Water Analysis Guide*

* You will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files.
You may download a free copy by clicking here.