Deborah A. Rutter, Associate Broker | REALTOR™ ABR, AHWD, CNS, CNHS, e-PRO, SFR, SRES Nest Realty Group 126 Garrett St #E | Charlottesville VA 22902 Phone | Text | SMS: (434) 996-2142 Email: Licensed in Virginia and Maine


Buying a Home with a Well? Get the Water Tested During Your Inspection
Making Assumptions About Water Safety is a Mistake
Publish Date: 05/23/2010

If you're buying a home that's not connect to a central water supply, congratulations! You are now the new, 'Water Safety, Treatment and Prevention Manager,' of your household.
For buyers who have never had anything but water from a municipal tap system, a private water supply can seem like virtually the same thing: turn on the faucet, water comes out. Simple. But too many buyers assume that if the water looks good, doesn't smell bad, and the current owners aren't sick, that the water must be fine. But that's a big mistake. Discovering that the water is unfit to drink or that the well is poorly constructed or in need of replacement is something to discover during the buying process, not after. All well water comes from groundwater. Water occurs naturally underground, more in some places than others, and deeper in some places than others. The ground provides a natural filter that performs basic cleaning services. Depending on where you live and the local ground materials and surrounding surface and subsurface conditions, you may need additional filtration for taste, and to remove sediments or contaminants. TYPES OF WELLS: Wells are either driven, dug or drilled. Each has it's place depending on the ground materials and location, but all wells rely on some sort of pump to get the groundwater from the earth and deliver it inside the home. All wells, regardless of construction type, should be clear of debris, and the grade around the well-cap (the part that comes out of the ground), should slope away to avoid pooling. Water should be coming from the ground up, not the other way around. PUMPS: All wells have some sort of pump to get water from the ground to the place where it’s used. A home inspection should include a careful look at the well pump for tight, non-leaking connections and cleanliness of any filtration system. This can be done by a home inspector, a plumber or a well pump installation technician. Most pumps run on electricity, so unlike being on municipal water, if the electricity goes out, you cannot flush the toilet, get a glass of water, take a shower, etc.

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  TESTING THE WATER: If you're buying, you should order a water test as part of the inspection process. Most tests consist of collecting a sample and having it sent to a local, state-certified lab for analysis. The results typically come back within a few days so plan accordingly if you're on a tight schedule. Some local health departments and states offer free testing kits as well. Depending on the kind of water test you're having done, there will be different requirements for how the water is drawn, and when. Some tests require running the water for a few minutes, first thing in the morning; others require the water to be taken from the tap the moment it comes out. If you're collecting the water yourself, follow the instructions exactly. You don't want a false reading that says the water is safe when it isn't. Most states have their own private water websites. WHAT TESTS SHOULD YOU GET? There are a number of different tests for water. Most public and private water recommendations are for at least a nitrate and total coli form test, but for new owners, getting water tested for heavy metals, contaminants, radon, organic and inorganic chemicals, etc., is a good idea. NOW is the time for discovery and's too late once you're closed and discover a problem. Click here for a great, comprehensive list of contaminants, the health effects that are created, and maximum contaminant levels. HOW MUCH ARE TESTS? Many tests are quite inexpensive. A total coli form/nitrate test can be free depending on where you live, or up to $50. Additional tests cost more money and not all tests may be performed at all labs. Keep in mind that free and home-test kits usually are very basic and cover minimal potential issues. WHAT IF THERE ARE PROBLEMS? Most issues can and should be solved before you move forward with your contract negotiations and closing. Simple procedures can fix a lot of contamination issues such as bleaching treatments or the additional of filters for odor/sediment issues. Older pumps that have been poorly maintained may need replacement parts or complete upgrades. Wells that are old should be inspected for leaks and other issues that can affect the integrity of the components. Positive tests for inorganic compounds and heavy metals can signal bigger issues surrounding the groundwater and may be more difficult to treat. Thorough testing is the only way to clearly identify current and potential issues. AFTER YOU MOVE IN: Your water test may reveal that your water is ideal. You'll enjoy fresh, clean water, unconnected to the issues, hassles and potential additives of municipals supplies. But to keep it that way you need to test annually, and be sure that activities on or surrounding your groundwater don't turn your clean water into contaminated water. The EPA recommends: *Periodically inspect exposed parts of the well for problems such as: -cracked, corroded, or damaged well casing -broken or missing well cap -settling and cracking of surface seals. *Slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff away from the well. *Install a well cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of, or entry into, the well. *Have the well tested once a year for coli form bacteria, nitrates, and other constituents of concern. *Keep accurate records of any well maintenance, such as disinfection or sediment removal, that may require the use of chemicals in the well. *Hire a certified well driller for any new well construction, modification, or abandonment and closure. *Avoid mixing or using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, de-greasers, fuels, and other pollutants near the well. *Do not dispose of wastes in dry wells or in abandoned wells. *Do not cut off the well casing below the land surface. *Pump and inspect septic systems as often as recommended by your local health department. *Never dispose of harsh chemicals, solvents, petroleum products, or pesticides in a septic system or dry well. Buying a house with a well can be exciting. It can be one step closer to getting off 'the grid,' ensuring that you have a water supply that's not infused with extra chemicals, fluoride, etc., and means that you're immune from municipal water quality failures. But it also means that the problems you encounter are yours alone to discover and treat. Start off on a strong foot by making sure that when you move in, you know the quality of your water and the related infrastructure by getting good, accurate testing and inspections. Page 2 of 3  

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