DIY Water Testing for Safe Drinking Water
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DIY Water Testing for Safe Drinking Water

When it concerns your drinking water, it's what you do not see that can hurt you. While water that smells or tastes foul is a certain sign that something's not right, contamination is usually undetectable to the naked eye, nose, and mouth.

When it concerns your drinking water, it's what you do not see that can hurt you. While water that smells or tastes foul is a certain sign that something's not right, contamination is usually undetectable to the naked eye, nose, and mouth. You must have it tested to be sure it's safe. If you are tapped into a municipal water supply, you may request test results. If you still suspect that your water is contaminated, or if you have well water, you'll have to pay to get your water tested by a laboratory specializing in such procedures (there are really no do-it-yourself tests for water).

Contact your state department on environmental protection for a list of certified labs that can perform the service. Many labs will allow you to mail in water samples for testing. Their fees include prepaid overnight delivery, prepaid postal service, or UPS.

The fees for labs runs around $30 for basic potability tests; $40 to $55 for a basic test for about a half-dozen toxic or cancer-causing chemicals; $70 to $110 for more comprehensive tests for as many as two dozen chemicals; and $175 to $200 for "super tests" for just about all toxic chemicals, bacteria, and solvents.

Recognize What You're Paying For

Prior to settling on a laboratory to test your water, be sure you get a comprehensive breakdown of what its fee covers. One company, for instance, might charge $10 more, but may test for another half-dozen chemicals. You may want the most comprehensive test you can find, or you might not need a super test, so it pays to understand your needs and then shop around.

Free Advice

Some water-testing labs give suggestions for clearing up water problems. Be sure to ask about this prior to having any tests done—and before you leap out and spend money on a filtering or other cleanup device.

Home Remedy

If your water has a severe pollution problem, it could take a lawsuit or the action of a governmental agency to clear it up. But a water-filtering system can aid in keeping things clean if your supply is rather pure. If you are shopping for one of these devices, choose an under-the-sink type. Tests have established that devices attached to the faucet do not work as well.

The under-the-sink filtering devices can screen out a range of harmful substances, as well as excess chlorine, fluorides, sodium, nitrates, organic halides and trihalomethanes. Don't expect them to rectify major problems, however. Most use some kind of carbon filter. In a product test conducted by Rodale's Practical Homeowner Institute, the most efficient type was found to be a carbon-block filter. Granulated carbon filters were determined to be less effective.

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