What to test for and how often

Your drinking water looks, tastes, and smells fine, why test it?

Here's Why:

  • Germs, chemicals and toxic waste in or on the ground can pollute your drinking water under the ground. You might not see, smell, or taste them.
  • Some local rocks contain harmful substances that can dissolve into your well water.

If you have never tested your well water, test for everything listed below. After this first complete test, you can follow the schedule below that spreads out the tests and the costs. For a list of labs that test well water click here.

Some of the State-certified labs will give you a 15% discount on well testing packages. Click here to get the coupon.

Well Testing Schedule
Every Year
Test for: Why?
Coliform bacteria (germs) Key water quality test
Nitrate Infant blood problems
Nitrite Infant blood problems
Color Key water quality test
Turbidity (cloudy water) Key water quality test
Chloride Salty tasting water
Every 3 - 5 Years
Test for: Why?
Fluoride Too much fluoride:Bone disease, stained teeth
Too little fluoride: tooth decay
Iron Laundry or plumbing fixture stains
Lead Physical and mental development delays, kidney problems, high blood pressure
Manganese Laundry or plumbing fixture stains
Sulfate Diarrhea
pH Can ruin appliances and plumbing

Tests for corrosiveness:

  • Alkalinity
  • Total dissolved solids
  • Hardness
  • Specific Conductance
Can ruin appliances and plumbing
Every 5 - 10 Years
Test for: Why?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Increased chance of cancer and other negative health effects
MtBE Gasoline pollution

Other times to test:

  • Test whenever you notice a change in your drinking water's taste, smell, or color.
  • Test if your drinking water well has been flooded.
  • You may need additional tests depending on well type, plumbing type, and where you live. See the Additional Tests chart below.
  • We can help you. Call or email Alyson McCann, Program Coordinator
    Phone: 401-874-5398
    E-mail: alyson@uri.edu.
Additional Tests
Pollutant Why?
Arsenic If you live near agricultural land - especially fruit orchards or land that was a fruit orchard. Also, if you live near industrial sites.
Beryllium Occurs naturally in the bedrock in some areas of Rhode Island, including East Greenwich, West Greenwich, Coventry, Exeter, western Cranston, Johnston and Scituate.
Copper If your plumbing system has copper pipes it is possible that the copper in the pipes can dissolve into the water.
Man-made Chemicals

In some areas of the state industrial solvents, manufacturing chemicals, ammunition wastes, and pesticides have been detected in groundwater. Contact the Rhode Island Department of Health for information about areas of known drinking well water pollution.

Radon There is no drinking water standard for radon. However, radon in the water can contribute to radon levels in indoor air, which is of greater concern.


Additional resources:

For more information contact Alyson McCann, Program Coordinator:
Phone: 401-874-5398
E-mail: alyson@uri.edu

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