A: There are 2 categories of water tests for well water:
1. Bacteriological Water Testing
2. Chemical Water Testing
Bacteriological Water Testing
Bacteriological testing should be done 2 or 3 times a year. Two common types of bacteria found in water are: Total Coliforms and E.coli.
Total Coliforms include bacteria found in soil, surface water, and the intestinal tracts of animals. Finding total coliforms in a well may not mean that the water is unsafe to drink, but does indicate:
1) The well may require improved sanitation or physical upgrades
2) The well may be subject to surface contamination
Escherichia coli (E. coli)
E. coli originates in the intestinal tracts of animals. The presence of E. coli in your well water may mean fecal matter has entered the well. Fecal organisms cause stomach and intestinal illnesses, including diarrhea and nausea, and may even lead to death. Babies, children, elderly or people with immune deficiencies or other illnesses may be affected more severely.
E. coli in your drinking water is an immediate health concern and the water is not safe to drink.
For more information, see the British Columbia Ministry of Environment’s fact sheet on Total, Fecal & E. coli Bacteria in Groundwater
Testing water for chemicals should be done on a routine basis, typically at a minimum of every 5 years. Chemicals commonly of concern in the Fraser Valley’s groundwater resources are: nitrates, fluoride and metals such as arsenic, lead, copper and manganese.
High levels of nitrates have been found in numerous wells throughout the Fraser Valley. This usually occurs in areas where groundwater may be contaminated by surface activities such as agriculture or farming, drilled wells can be susceptible but shallow wells are especially vulnerable to nitrate contamination.
Since well water comes from the underground, different metals in the soil and rock can leach or dissolved into the water. Some metals, such as arsenic can have serious and long-term health effects if they are found in high amounts.