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41. Test Your Water Routinely

testing water

If you have a private water supply, you are responsible for the quality of water that your family and guests drink. That's why you need to test your private water supply at least once a year—more often if problems arise.

If you get water from a public, or municipal, supply, you have more protection because these supplies are tested on a routine schedule. Still, you may need to test your water because it is possible that corrosive water (water that erodes metal fixtures) or other factors can cause pipes in your home to leach contaminants, especially metals, into your water supply.

Reasons to test... With either a private or public water supply, consider testing if: you have recurrent incidents of gastrointestinal illness; water has an objectionable taste or smell; water leaves scaly residues and soap scum; water decreases the action of soaps and detergents...
Reasons to test... . . . plumbing shows signs of corrosion or contains lead pipes, brass fittings and fixtures, or lead-solder joints; you are considering the purchase of water-treatment equipment, such as a water softener; or you want to check the performance of water-treatment equipment that is in use.
Reasons to test... If you have a private water supply, the following are additional reasons to consider testing: You are buying a home and wish to evaluate the safety and quality of the water supply; water stains plumbing fixtures and laundry; water appears cloudy, frothy, or colored; water-supply equipment wears out rapidly; you are pregnant, are anticipating a pregnancy, or you have an infant less than 6 months old. . .
Reasons to test... . . . you have a new well and want to evaluate it or your well does not meet construction codes; your well has a submersible brass pump; you have backsiphoning problems; you have mixed, loaded, or spilled pesticides, or spilled fuel near your well...
Reasons to test... . . . you have a sand-point well or a large-diameter dug or bored well; or your well is shallow (less than 50 feet deep) and one of these conditions exists—(a) the soil is sandy or (b) bedrock or sand and gravel is less than 10 feet from the surface.
Reasons to test... Also, consider testing your water if your well is located near the following sites: livestock confinement area; operational or abandoned gas station or fuel storage tank (buried or aboveground); retail chemical factory; gravel pit, coal mine, or other mining operation. . .
Reasons to test... . . . oil or gas drilling operation; dump, landfill, or junkyard; factory; dry-cleaning operation; road-salt storage site or heavily salted roadway; septic tank or septic system's absorption field.
baseline testing for bacteria or nitrate Your local health department may do simple baseline testing for bacteria or nitrate. For more extensive testing results, especially for pesticides and other inorganic substances, consult the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois EPA, or a state-certified laboratory.
Water test results express the concentration of different chemicals in different ways Water test results express the concentration of different chemicals in different ways. Most minerals are reported in either "parts per million" or "milligrams per liter. " (One part per million is equal to 1 milligram per liter. ) Pesticides are usually reported in "parts per billion" or "micrograms per liter. " For other compounds, results may be expressed differently. For instance, water hardness may be expressed in "grains per gallon," whereas the corrosion index simply estimates whether water is corrosive or not corrosive.
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