Have you ever had a moment when it dawns on you that there is SO MUCH you don’t know? I am a person who truly enjoys learning new things so my curiosity often leads me to dig a little deeper when I discover things that I know nothing about. This job has led me on many searches for knowledge! I have to say that in the process of this search I found myself tumbling down several different rabbit holes!
We recently had a client request that his comprehensive water testing include a test for uranium. This was the first time that I had encountered someone asking for this additional testing and I immediately wondered about it. It turns out that uranium is all around us and we take it in in many ways. It’s found in small amounts in the form of minerals and can be found in rocks, soil, water, plants, animals, foods that we consume and in the air. Although most ingested uranium is eliminated from the body, elevated levels of uranium can potentially cause damage to the kidneys and an increased risk of cancer. For this reason, it makes sense that someone would want to test for it. Especially since there are low levels found in most drinking water in the US – and higher levels in areas that have more naturally occurring uranium.
Where do you find more naturally occurring uranium? Well, it’s found in the soil and water as a result of the breakdown of rocks containing it. Where do we live? The Granite State!! This certainly presents a substantial potential for concern (and reason to test for it)!
What else is caused by the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil? Radon!
As we know from a previous blog post, Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can find it’s way into your home through cracks in your foundation as well as in your well water. Approximately 30% of the homes tested throughout NH were found to have radon levels higher than the EPA recommended level of 4.0 pCi/L. Although the eastern/southeastern portion of the state resulted in a higher likelihood of elevated radon results, there is still a strong recommendation for all residents to test for radon in the air and well water.
If you have elevated radon in your water, you will ABSOLUTELY want to have a radon mitigation system for the water in your home. This is because radon is a gas and every time water is passed through your faucets and shower, that gas is being released from the water and you will be breathing it in at a high concentration at close proximity. This is a serious health risk! Radon mitigation for reducing radon in your water can cost anywhere from $1000-$4500 and up.
Unfortunately, you can’t see, smell or taste either uranium or radon so testing is extremely important because typically an elevated level won’t have a rapid effect on your health so the damage can continue unnoticed for some time before symptoms become evident.
When people call for a home inspection and we mention radon testing, I am often asked “Is it really something I have to do? Buying a house is so expensive!” I don’t want to pressure anyone into feeling like it is a service we are pushing in the interest of earning more money so I find that the most frequent link I send people to is http://www.epa.gov/radon.
How often should I test my water?
As per CDC recommendations, at minimum, you should test your water once each year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If there is a known history of other contaminants, you should also test for those. You should also have your well tested if (take directly from the CDC website):
- There are known problems with well water in your area
- You have experienced problems near your well (i.e., flooding, land disturbances, and nearby waste disposal sites)
- You replace or repair any part of your well system
- You notice a change in water quality (i.e., taste, color, odor)
Does my well ever need maintenance?
Yes! Our good friends over at Skillings and Sons recommend having a trained professional check over the mechanical systems of your well every five years. Well maintenance is an affordable service that is just like having your trusty mechanic look over your car.
The friendly professionals at Nelson Analytical Lab process all of our water tests and will be a great source for NH Homeowners with private wells. I want people to have the information and make the best decision. Owning a home is expensive and your home inspection may identify unexpected issues with the home and your water test may identify unexpected issues with your water. These are things you hope to know before that house (and any potential problems) becomes yours! We want your family to be safe and secure in your home. Don’t wait for health concerns to prompt you to test your water. If you haven’t done so, do it now. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind!