During a recent residential acreage sale, the well was tested for potability based on Stevens County Health Department minimum standards (lead, arsenic, nitrates, coliform and uranium). When the lab report came back it revealed an extremely elevated level of arsenic which was alarming to the new buyer. Since the home had been vacant for many months the owner purged the well by allowing the water to run for many hours, but when re-tested the water still contained unacceptable levels of arsenic in the tap water. The long term solution for this well was an expensive treatment system.
Now, consider this thought; if this well was in Spokane County, the minimum county standard for quality of water would ONLY include coliform and nitrate tests. If this well was high in arsenic, lead or uranium no one would be the wiser and the owner’s health could be at risk without discovery or treatment. How can anyone declare the water potable when there are so many unanswered questions? So much for big government looking out for your interests! Truthfully, that inquiry should really be the responsibility of the new owner, but there does seem to be a missing link in terms of education. Does your Realtor® know enough to look out for you interests in this regard as you purchase a rural residence?
The majority of water samples in our region are analyzed by Anatek Labs in Spokane, who have several pricing packages for well tests. Most folks choose to cut corners and go with the least expensive version (around $50), even though water quality is not the place to be a cheap skate. Anatek offers a testing package called the Private Well Test which includes a comprehensive list of 32 different items in addition to the bacteria test (including those listed above). My recommendation to anyone purchasing property with a well is to use that particular testing package as the standard so they don’t miss anything. The cost is approx. $150 for that sample package, then an additional $400- $600 for the four hour quantity test. That is money well spent in my opinion!
The story above is not an isolated incident! Many wells in our area test high in lead, arsenic, and uranium, all related to potential health issues. Some minerals present in well water such as iron, manganese or sulfur may not be a significant health hazard, but can be a real annoyance and costly in terms of treatment systems.