Well-water needs to be tested periodically to ensure its potability. The States of Maine and New Hampshire differ on what they suggest for annual well-water testing, however. While the recommendation of each State has become more similar in recent years, New Hampshire has taken a lead by including testing for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and PFAS compounds to its basic list (new in 2019).
|How Often||New Hampshire Recommends (2019)||State of Maine Recommends (2017)|
|Every 3-5 Years|
|Every 3-5 Years Radiological Analysis||
|Every 3-5 Years||VOCs
|Source||NHDES "Suggested Water Quality Testing for Private Wells" (3 pg. pdf, 2019)||Maine Statute §2660-T, “Safe Drinking Water from Residential Private Wells: Uniform Testing Recommendation” (2017)|
From the New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services:
This basic analysis covers the most common contaminants. Some of these contaminants pose health-related concerns, while others only affect aesthetics (taste and odor) or provide information needed in order to determine the appropriate treatment for the water.
New Hampshire’s geology [and Maine's] contains naturally occurring radioactive elements that dissolve easily in well water. A basic radiological analysis will test for uranium, analytical gross alpha, and radon gas. Radon is a common well water problem in New Hampshire [and Maine] and testing for it may be required by your lender or your municipality.
Presently, there are no federal or state standards for radon in drinking water, only suggested action levels. NH DES estimates that approximately one-third of private wells in New Hampshire exceed DES’s suggested action level, so radiological testing is encouraged. [Maine's wells exceed the action level at the same rate as New Hampshire's.]
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
PFAS have been found in a significant percentage of private wells in New Hampshire. NHDES revised its private well testing recommendations in 2019 to include PFAS.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
The most common VOCs come from gasoline compounds (such as MtBE and benzene) and industrial solvents. MtBE can be found in well water even in remote areas.
Circumstances relative to your well may indicate additional testing not described here. For instance, DES does not recommend routine testing for pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic organic compounds, mainly because of the high cost. However, such testing might be warranted if your water has elevated nitrite/nitrate concentrations or if significant amounts of pesticide have been applied near the well.
From the EPA's "Protect Your Home's Water" (website):
|Conditions or Nearby Activities:||Test for:|
|Recurring gastro-intestinal illness||Coliform bacteria|
|Household plumbing contains lead||pH, lead, copper|
|Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich||Radon|
|Corrosion of pipes, plumbing||Corrosion, pH, lead|
|Nearby areas of intensive agriculture||Nitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria|
|Coal or other mining operations nearby||Metals, pH, corrosion|
|Gas drilling operations nearby||Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium|
|Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station or dry-cleaning operation nearby||Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals|
|Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks||Volatile organic compounds|
|Objectionable taste or smell||Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals, bacteria|
|Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry||Iron, copper, manganese|
|Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby*||Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium|
|Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather*||Hardness|
|Rapid wear of water treatment equipment*||pH, corrosion|
|Water softener needed to treat hardness*||Manganese, iron|
|Water appears cloudy, frothy or colored*||Color, detergents|
*A "nuisance concern" and not necessarily an immediate health threat. Still, these issues are good to address for aesthetic reasons and to prolong the life of your pipes and/or equipment.
The State of Maine requires some small businesses to do annual "Basic Safety" tests on their water if they get their drinking water from surface water or private wells.
The Basic Safety Test list:
|Test||Result Must Be|
|Nitrate||Less than 10 mg/L|
|Nitrite||Less than 1.0 mg/L|
Each of these tests has a very short hold time. Please give us a call to order bottles and schedule your drop-off time.
Maine Family Care Provider Well-Water Testing:
|Initial||Annual||Every 5 Years|
|Coliform Bacteria||Coliform Bacteria||Fluoride|
|Nitrate and Nitrite||Nitrate and Nitrite||Arsenic|
|Fluoride||Lead - "First-Draw"|
|Lead - "First-Draw"|
Source: State of Maine Family Child Care Provider Licensing Rule, 10-144 Code of Maine Rules, Chap. 33 (2018)
Maine Rules for the Licensing of Child Care Facilities and Nursery Schools
|If on a Private Well - Initial Test:|
Source: Rules for the Licensing of Child Care Facilities, 10-148 CMR Chapter 32 and Nursery Schools, Chapter 36