First... a water test

The Water standards for Michigan are set by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The first thing you have to do is visit a water testing lab and purchase a test kit for both bacteria and nitrate. Call your county health department, they will know where your nearest lab is. My lab test costs $40 in 12/2018

This is right from the Michigan DEQ....

Local health departments are the main regulatory agency with respect to residential wells. They are required to maintain a list of environmental contaminants within their jurisdiction, and they consider this information when they issue permits for new wells.

Your local health department is usually at the district or county level, and their phone number can be found in a local telephone book or online at Since the local health department tracks this contaminant information, and contaminants are site-specific depending on the contaminant source, it is worthwhile to contact the local health department to determine what contaminants may be in your area. If a contaminant such as a petroleum product, industrial solvent, heavy metal, herbicide, or pesticide is in the area, the health department may recommend a test for the contaminant.

When calling a local health department or health district to discuss well water quality, ask to speak with a water sanitarian. When buying or selling a home, some testing may be required. Some counties require that wells be tested for certain contaminants upon the sale of a home (called “point of sale” testing).

A test for bacteria or even an “automated partial chemistry” test may be required. The automated partial chemistry test is for the following contaminants: chloride, fluoride, hardness, iron, nitrate, nitrite, sodium, and sulfate. In addition to this point of sale testing, various lending institutions require drinking water testing before mortgage approval (e.g., the Federal Housing Administration requires testing for lead in drinking water sources before they will approve the lending transaction), so contact both the lending institution and the local health department to make an informed contaminant test selection decision.

Any time a new well is installed, or an old well or well pump is maintained, it is important to check the integrity of the well to make sure the well was installed properly and that no surface water sources are getting into the well. A bacterial test for coliform will be required and conducted for this purpose.

Another reason to test water in the home is if a household member has a health condition such as hypertension (high blood pressure). Sodium can occur naturally and is also introduced into drinking water at homes through some water softening systems. So learn whether your system introduces sodium into your water and if so, then check the function of the water softener every now and then for your health.

Many different laboratories test the quality of residential drinking water from water wells, including the State of Michigan Drinking Water Laboratory. The State of Michigan lab conducts the bacteria test for $16; the lead test for $18, and the automated partial chemistry test for $18.

Bacteriological Testing: The bacteriological test evaluates the quality of drinking water for a group of bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, in surface water, in some soils and in decaying vegetation. These bacteria are commonly called coliform or E. coli. The lab result that you want to receive is negative, or not detected for coliform organisms. If you receive a positive result (reported by the State of Michigan Lab as “Pos for coliform organisms per 100 ml”), then organisms were present in the water sample and your safety cannot be assured. Worse yet, if the State of Michigan results say “EC Pos for coliform organisms per 100 ml” then this is an indication of sewage contamination in the water.

General guidelines of ranges for automated partial chemistry results in mg/l (ppm) include:

It is very important to learn about your drinking water source and to be knowledgeable about the water in your home because various problems can arise.

• Objectionable levels of chloride may result in taste and corrosion concerns.

• Moderate levels of fluoride are beneficial in reducing tooth decay; high levels can cause mottling of teeth.

• Hard water (high levels of hardness) can cause scaling of water fixtures, laundry problems, water spotting, and discoloration. At low levels, corrosion can result (especially in copper piping). • Iron in water can cause staining, turbidity, taste, color, and odor.

• Blue Baby Syndrome (methemoglobinemia) is a blood disorder reported among infants where nitrate or nitrite-contaminated well water was used to prepare formula and other baby foods. Infants suffering from methemoglobinemia may seem healthy but show intermittent signs of blueness around the mouth, hands, and feet. They may have episodes of breathing trouble, some diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, an infant may have a peculiar lavender color but show little distress. This syndrome can cause marked lethargy, excessive salivation, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and even death. Nitrate and nitrite are both forms of nitrogen. More information on this very serious health concern can be found through the State of Michigan Web at, select “Drinking Water,” then “Water Well Construction,” and then “Brochures and Fact Sheets” or through the link www.deq.state.

• Sodium may naturally be present in groundwater and is further introduced into the water supply through some water softeners. The American Heart Association recommends that people with a sodium restricted diet use a drinking water source with less than 20 mg/l (or parts per million, ppm).

• Sulfates usually are not a significant health hazard. Sulfates can have a temporary laxative effect on humans. Sulfates may also cause scaling in boilers and heat exchangers.

• Hydrogen sulfide is a gas with a rotten egg odor that can be naturally found in well water. It can cause black stains on laundry and black deposits on pipes and fixtures. A person can detect this gas in very small quantities through smell. As previously mentioned, the best contact related to well water quality is your local health department. In addition, the State of Michigan collects some statewide data and may be contacted through the Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278 and ask for the Water Division, Groundwater Section, Contamination and Investigation Unit.