Many of us don't give much thought to where our drinking water comes from. We just turn on the faucet, the water comes out, and we drink or cook with it. Some of us filter it through a pitcher to make it "taste better." But how often do we consider the more important question of whether or not it is safe to drink?
Almost all water contains contaminants. These can include dissolved minerals, organic compounds, and microorganisms. Some contaminants may be mostly a nuisance, causing problems with laundry, kitchenware, and even an unpleasant taste or odor. But there are other contaminants, which at certain levels can be harmful to human health.
The only way to be sure that your water supply is safe is to have it tested regularly. If your home is connected to a public water system, your utility is required by law to monitor the water supply for safety as it leaves the treatment facility. But it is possible for the water to become contaminated from contact with your plumbing system. For private water sources, such as wells or cisterns, the owner is the one who is responsible for testing and treatment. Testing your family's drinking water regularly will give you the information you need to ensure that it continues to be safe.
Some of the most common contaminants that should be included when testing drinking water include total coliform bacteria, nitrate, pH, and total dissolved solids. Excessive levels of any of these can indicate conditions that could compromise the safety of the drinking water.
Virginia Cooperative Extension is offering you the opportunity to have your water tested in June for these common contaminants, as well as other bacteria and chemical tests. The Drinking Water Clinics give people with private water systems access to affordable water testing, help interpreting their water test results, and information about possible treatment options.
Here's how it works:
1. At a brief informational meeting, pick up a sample kit and get instructions to collect your household water sample.
2. Collect a sample from your tap at home and complete a short questionnaire.
3. Drop off sample at a designated location and time.
4. About four (4) weeks later, come back to get your confidential test results, an explanation of what the numbers mean, and information on how to handle any problems that are present.
The water testing includes 14 contaminants such as Iron, Manganese, Sulfate, Hardness, Sodium, Copper, Nitrate, Arsenic, Fluoride, pH, Total Dissolved Solids, Coliform bacteria, E. coli bacteria, and Lead. The cost for the analysis of your water sample is $45. (The analysis provided would normally cost more than $200 at a commercial water testing laboratory.) Payment is due at the kick-off meeting where you will receive your sample kit. Please make checks payable to VCE-Shenandoah County. Drinking Water Clinic kick-off meetings will be held on the following dates at the listed locations:
Page County: June 18, 2012, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the VCE-Page County Office, Community Room, 215 West Main Street, Stanley, Virginia. Call 540-778-5794 to register. (Collection date is June 20th, 7-10 a.m.)
Shenandoah County: June 19, 2012, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Shenandoah County Government Center, Board Room, 600 North Main Street, Woodstock, Virginia. Call 540-459-6140 to register. (Collection date is June 20th, 7-10 a.m.)
Warren County: June 26, 2012, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Warren County Government Center, Board Room, 220 North Commerce Avenue, Front Royal, Virginia. Call 540-635-4549 to register. (Collection date is June 27th, 7-10 a.m.)