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Alkalinity is a measure of the capacity of water to neutralize acids (see pH description). Alkaline compounds in the water such as bicarbonates (baking soda is one type), carbonates, and hydroxides remove H+ ions and lower the acidity of the water (which means increased pH). They usually do this by combining with the H+ ions to make new compounds. Without this acid-neutralizing capacity, any acid added to a stream would cause an immediate change in the pH.


Ammonia is a colorless, pungent gaseous compound of hydrogen and nitrogen that is highly soluble in water. It is a biologically active compound found in most waters as a normal biological degradation product of nitrogenous organic matter (protein). It also may find its way to ground and surface waters through discharge of industrial process wastes containing ammonia and fertilizers. Ammonia has been used in municipal treatment systems for more than 70 years to prolong the effectiveness of disinfection chlorine added to drinking water. The addition of ammonia enhances the formation of chloramines (which may create objectionable tastes), and it reduces the formation of chlorination by-products which may be carcinogenic.


Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks, soil, air, water, plants, and animals. It can enter well water through the ground or as a run off to surface water sources. Arsenic can be further released into well water through natural activities such as erosion of rocks and forest fires, or through human actions. Human exposure to arsenic can cause both short and long term health effects. Short or acute effects can occur within hours or days of exposure. Long or chronic effects occur over many years. Long term exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, nasal passages, liver and prostate.

The maximum level for arsenic in water is .01 mg/L.



Any coliforms present in drinking water is cause for action. Groundwater in a properly constructed well or spring should be free of coliforms bacteria. If coliforms are found in a well or spring, it generally means that surface water has somehow leaked into the water. This could happen if rain runoff or snow melt makes its way into the well or spring through cracks in ledge outcroppings, gravelly soil, or sandy soil. It could also be due to poor construction or cracks in the well or spring casing. In addition, insects snakes, mice or other creatures getting into the well or spring can cause contamination If coliforms are present, Con-Test will continue to test and check for Coliforms/Ecoli. The drinking water guidelines state drinking water should not contain more than 10 total coliforms bacteria per 100 mL of water.

Your test results will either be A(Absent) or P(Present).


Chlorides do not cause health problems, but high chloride levels in drinking water may be a sign of other problems. Consuming too much chloride (Cl) has a detrimental effect on the metabolism. The EPA standard has been set at the level at which the average person notices an unpleasant salty taste. Chloride contamination is associated with infiltration of road salt leaching into water supplies or backwash from a water softener and/or sea water.

14 mg/L is considered normal for well water. The maximum level for chlorides in well water is 250 mg/L.


When copper is present in water, it is typically due to the water flowing through pipes or plumbing in homes with copper and brass parts. Service lines, which are the pipes that connect homes to the water main, could have copper in them. Inside your home, you may have copper pipes or brass fixtures. Copper levels are highest in water that has been sitting in pipes for several hours. The amount of copper in the water decreases after the water is run for 1 minute. Hot water causes copper to dissolve and enter water faster. Periodically drinking water that contains copper above the action level does not guarantee it will harm someone’s health. Consuming high levels of copper may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Some infants and children, people with liver disease, and people with Wilson's disease have trouble eliminating copper from their bodies and are more likely to experience negative health effects, such as kidney and liver damage.

Fecal Coliform

The fecal coliform group includes all of the rod-shaped bacteria that are non-spore forming, Gram-Negative , lactose-fermenting in 24 hours at 44.5 ° C, and which can grow with or without oxygen. Fecal coliform by themselves are usually  not pathogenic; they are indicator organisms, which means they may indicate the presence of other pathogenic bacteria. Pathogens are typically present in such small amounts it is impractical monitor them directly.


Fluorides in water can be detrimental or beneficial depending upon the concentration. If the water contains over 1.5 parts per million of fluorides, use of this water during the period of tooth formation causes a condition known as "endemic dental fluorosis", a dark brown stain on the teeth. It is therefore necessary to remove fluorides present in such high concentrations. Recent work has shown that low concentrations of fluoride taken during tooth formation can minimize tooth decay.

Concentrations on the order of 1 part per million are considered optimum.


The contributors to hardness are calcium and magnesium. The presence of these elements tend to plate out on water pipes and heating coils in hot water tanks, and reduce the effectiveness of detergents. Hard water causes stains, leaves residues, or causes other physical problems in water-handling equipment.

Low level (soft): 0 - 75 mg/L
Moderate level: 76 - 150 mg/L
Hard level: 151 - 250 mg/L
Very Hard level: 251+ mg/L
Concentrations on the order of 1 part per million are considered optimum.



Iron becomes a nuisance element. It will show its presence as rust stains on water fixtures and if chlorine bleach is used in the laundry, rust spots will appear on clothes. If this happens, use non-chlorine bleach with your clothes. Common iron removal methods include ion exchange and oxidation filtration.

Average Iron level is 0.2 mg/L. The maximum acceptable level is 0.3 mg/L. Higher levels produce a bad odor and taste.


Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause serious health problems, especially for infants, children, and pregnant women. Nervous system, kidney, and red blood cell problems may be effects of exposure to high lead levels. In young children, lead may have harmful effects on nervous system and brain development. Lead has been used in making solder, fitting and fixtures found in household plumbing.

The maximum level for manganese in water is .05.


Manganese does not cause health problems at levels typically found in drinking water and it is an essential element for human metabolism. However, manganese can discolor water; stain clothing, sinks, toilets and bathtubs. It can also cause undesirable tats in drinking water.

The maximum level for manganese in water is .05.


Nitrate in elevated levels is linked with two known health problems. Methemoglobinemia or "blue baby syndrome" is caused by an oxygen deficiency in the blood. This causes bluish skin tone in infants. In adults, nitrates can form chemicals called nitrosamines that have been linked to cancer. These may pose long-term health risks. Elevated nitrate levels in well water may also indicate other problems such as contamination from sources such as septic systems or fertilizers.

The maximum level for nitrate in water is 10 mg/L. However, when levels exceed 5 mg/L, the source of nitrate should be investigated.


Well water will sometimes develop an odor in the water, which is evidence of a problem. The maximum level for odor in well water is 3 O.U.

Your test results will either be ND(Not Detected) or D(Detected).

PFAS (Per/Polyfluoroalkyl substances)

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. PFAS have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940's. PFAS can be found in commercial household products, including stain and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, and fire-fighting foams. The major ways people are exposed to PFAS is contaminated soil and water used to grow food, food packaging containing PFAS, and equipment that used PFAS during food processing.

EPA has established the health advisory levels at 70 parts per trillion.

To learn more about PFAS please visit our PFAS page


PH is a measure of acidity. Acidic water, along with low hardness (soft water), tends to be corrosive to your water pipes, potentially dissolving lead and copper. Basic water itself is not a problem, but may have a bitter taste. Alkalinity, which is a seperate measurement, is your water's capacity against drastic pH changes.

The scale is 0-14
0 to 5 is acidic (not desirable)
5.5 to 8 is average
8.5 to 14 is basic (or alkaline)


Sodium is a necessary dietary element and occurs naturally in all water, but more so in areas where there is sea water. Salt from septic systems and road de-icing salt may elevate levels in wells and indicate other water problems. Sodium has no set health hazard level, but those individuals on a low sodium diet should take into account the amount of sodium in their drinking water when determining overall sodium intake. High levels of sodium in drinking water may cause an unpleasant taste. For people with sodium restricted diets it may cause health problems by contributing to high blood pressure.

32 mg/L is considered average.
50 mg/L or above may affect performance.
250 mg/L is the maximum level for sodium in all drinking water.


Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness of water. It is used to indicate water quality and filtration effectiveness. Higher turbidity levels are often associated with higher levels of disease-causing microorganisms such as viruses, parasites and some bacteria. These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches. They may also cause plugged piping or fouled water treatment equipment.

Turbidity levels should be less than 5 NTU's (turbidity units) for clear, acceptable water.



Volatile Organic Compounds

No VOC's should be detected in well water, PERIOD. The presence of VOC's may be indicative of a well contaminated by petroleum products, industrial solvents or chemical byproducts. When VOC's are spilled or dumped, a portion will evaporate, but some usually soaks into the ground. In soil, the VOC's can be carried deeper with percolating rainwater or melting snow. If they reach the water table, they can persist for years because the cool, dark, low-bacteria environment does not promote decomposition. If the VOC's in the groundwater migrate to nearby wells, they can end up in your drinking water.

VOC contamination in your well water is a very serious health concern.