Although it’s often taken for granted, drinking water quality is important for everyone. We can get our drinking water from multiple sources including public water systems, bottled water, and private wells and springs. State and federal regulations require public and commercial drinking water providers to regularly test their water and to ensure that it meets safe drinking water standards. That is not the case for private drinking water sources though. To ensure that your private water source is safe, you must have your water tested regularly.
Many different things can affect drinking water. Some fairly common contaminates include bacteria, metals, minerals, and chemicals. Some contaminates can be detected through fairly simple, low cost methods while others can tend to be expensive.
Penn State’s Drinking Water Testing Program recommends:
“In general, you should test your water annually for coliform bacteria and every three years for pH and total dissolved solids. If you are concerned about potential pollutants or if you are experiencing aesthetic problems such as staining, taste, or odor, more extensive testing is warranted.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) Drinking Water From Household Wells publication (PDF) provides helpful information on potential contaminates and recommendations on what to test for in different circumstances.
Here are some additional water testing web resources (click on the links):
- Homeowner water testing packages:
- Information on water testing consultants:
- Information on pollutants & help for interpreting water test results:
- Wilkes University’s booklet on understanding water test results (PDF)
- Penn State’s online Drinking Water Interpretation Tool
- Penn State’s general publications on water testing
- Penn State publications on specific pollutants in water
- Groundwater Guardians Available Test Parameter Site – Why Test My Water?
- PA-DEP Recommended Basic Oil & Gas Pre-Drill Parameters
Water Well Construction
Another important factor in regards to drinking water is the construction of water wells. Unless the local municipality has enacted an ordinance, there are no mandated standards for the construction of a water well. In some regards, this well construction can be the single most important factor in protecting your water quality. Penn State’s Master Well Owners Network has many helpful resources about water wells, including information about proper well construction.
Potential Impacts from Natural Gas Drilling
With natural gas drilling activity occurring in some parts of Luzerne County, residents might wonder how their drinking water could be affected. This is a valid concern. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there about this issue. A good source of science-based information is Penn State’s Natural Gas website. Through that site, you can access webinars, publications, and other information about natural gas drilling and water quality issues. You may want to begin by reviewing their publication called “Gas Well Drilling and Your Private Water System” (PDF).
State regulations require natural gas drillers to test private water supplies near gas well sites. If you are outside of the testing area for a natural gas well site near your private water source, you may want to consider hiring a consultant to establish a baseline of your water quality (see above information on water testing consultants).