The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 9, 2004


Why test well water? The Carlisle Board of Health answers frequently asked questions

On Saturday, May 8, homeowners will have an opportunity to have their well water tested. The information provided below is a guide for determining the detail of water analysis desired. The Town of Carlisle has chosen Microbac, Inc. of Marlborough to provide this service. Microbac, Inc. has supplied the following information. To register for well testing, see below or call the Carlisle Board of Health for assistance at 1-978-369-0283.

Why should you test the water guality in my private well?

Homeowners are responsible for maintaining and ensuring the water quality of their wells. Beyond the testing required by the Carlisle Board of Health when a new well is created or property transferred, no routine monitoring is mandated. This does not mean that these wells are any less susceptible to contamination by bacterial, industrial or agricultural pollution, however. Based on the location and depth of a private well, it could become contaminated by failed septic systems from nearby homes, pesticides, herbicides or agricultural chemicals. Many of these are undetectable when present at levels above those considered safe by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

What should I test the water in my well for?

Basic Water Quality and Indicator Parameters is a group of parameters will give a general indication of the overall water quality of your well. It includes measures of aesthetic qualities such as odor, color, hardness, and turbidity as well as some parameters that will indicate either contamination or potential contamination of the well from failed septic systems or failed well casing (the pipe that lines the well). Elevated levels of nitrite, nitrate or any presence of total coliform will indicate that the well has been contaminated by septic materials and needs to be disinfected and retested. In addition, lead is also included in this list of parameters due to the past use of lead-containing plumbing solders and the natural occurrence of lead in the environment. The Basic Water Quality Scan includes the following: pH, color, odor, conductivity, turbidity, hardness, chloride, sodium, iron, manganese, calcium, magnesium, lead, nitrite, nitrate, and total coliform.

Comprehensive Water Quality and Indicator Parameters is a group of parameters that includes all of the Basic Water Quality and Indicator Parameters as well as some additional Water Quality and Indicator Parameters. If your well is completed in the bedrock aquifer you will want to test for this group of analytes. Included in this comprehensive list are arsenic and sulfate that are known to occur locally in high concentrations in the bedrock aquifers of Massachusetts. The Comprehensive Water Quality Scan includes all of the Basic Water Quality Scan parameters as well as arsenic, sulfate, chlorine, potassium, copper, alkalinity, ammonia, and total dissolved solids. It is recommended that these be tested for initially and then every three years thereafter.

Volatile Organic Contaminants are some of the most common and potentially most dangerous contaminants found in groundwater. Most of these chemicals are tasteless and odorless and have been found in many private wells in what most people would consider pristine settings in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection recommends testing for these contaminants in all new private wells and every three years thereafter.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that forms from the decomposition of trace amounts of naturally occurring uranium in the underlying bedrock. It is more likely to be found in wells that draw from the bedrock aquifer. It can be released from drinking waters and into the household air where it is then inhaled from bathing, laundering and dishwashing. Elevated levels can pose a health risk. It is recommended that this be tested for once.

Other contaminants in rural or agricultural areas, such as pesticides and herbicides, may be of concern. If your well is located in these areas or if you have specific concerns about the presence of other contaminants, contact the Carlisle Board of Health so that we can help guide you to the correct analysis for your situation.

Will this guarantee that my water is absolutely safe to drink and has no contaminants in it?

Unfortunately, no one can guarantee the safety of any water supply. These tests are low-cost alternatives that check for the most common contaminants found in drinking water and also are indicators of the presence of other contaminants. By routinely checking the quality of your water using these guidelines, you should be aware of any situation that requires more in-depth analysis.

BOH offers private well testing on May 8

As part of its ongoing evaluation of the quality of drinking water in town, the Board of Health is again organizing a voluntary water-testing program for Carlisle homeowners. The sampling will be conducted by Microbac Laboratories, Inc. of Marlborough on the morning of Saturday, May 8, 2004.

To participate, owners must prepay for the testing. Residents can sign up at the Board of Health office starting April 1, or by mailing a check (payable to Microbac Laboratories, Inc.) to the Carlisle Board of Health, 66 Westford Street, Carlisle, MA 01741 and providing the following: owner's name, address, telephone number, and test(s) selected. The deadline for signing up is April 30.

Microbac Laboratories, Inc. is a Massachusetts certified laboratory. The town has arranged for a volume discount on the testing cost. Residents may choose the test or combination of tests to be done. The sampling cost per site is $10. Testing parameters include:

Package #1: FHA/General Water Quality Scan $55 — including total coliform bacteria, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, chloride, color, conductivity, hardness, nitrates, nitrites, pH, odor, turbidity, and lead.

Package #2: Comprehensive Water Quality Scan $75 includes all tests in the General Water Quality Scan in Package #1 and also arsenic, sulfate, chlorine, potassium, copper, alkalinity, ammonia and dissolved solids.

Volatile Organic Compounds (petroleum products): $75

Volatile Organic Compounds with Package #1 or Package #2: $65

Pesticides $100; Coliform Bacteria $7.00; Radon $20; Gross Alpha $60; Site sampling fee: $10.

Testing will start at 9 a.m. on May 8. Owners must be home to provide access to an appropriate sampling port. There will be no appointments, but owners will be called ahead so they can start purging the water lines. Sampling should be completed by early afternoon. Owners will receive complete testing results within a few weeks. A copy will be kept for the Board of Health property files. The ongoing testing results provide the Board of Health with an important tool for studying the overall water quality throughout Carlisle.

Questions about the testing should be directed to the Board of Health office, 1-978-369-0280. Detailed information about these tests can be found at the Carlisle Board of Health website: Click on Departments, scroll to Board of Health.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito