Getting Your Water Tested

1. Where can I get it tested?

At BSC Labs we feel that an accredited laboratory should always be the laboratory of first choice. The laboratory is tested every year by both the US EPA and the State of Pennsylvania. In addition, a DEP certification officer, experienced in laboratory analysis, performs biannual, onsite evaluations and in-depth inspections of the laboratory. The lab must follow correct methodology and have adequate equipment to remain accredited. Any analyses that they do not perform will be sent to another lab accredited for that analyses. We believe that because of these stringent requirements, you are assured of quality analyses.

2. Why should I test my water?

There are three main reasons for testing your water. They are to ensure safety, document water quality, and reduce the cost of water treatment.

Any safety factors?

A change in the taste, odor, or clarity of your water may indicate that your water is no longer safe to drink. When replacing your pump or drilling a new well, it is advisable to test for water quality. If an infant or elderly person will be joining your household, testing to ensure their safety may be in order.


Many homeowners have had their water supply suddenly become unusable. Reasons could include the following: spilling or misapplication of chemicals or fuels; leaking underground tanks; farm runoff; overloaded septic systems; or nearby well drilling, to name a few. Without proof of water quality prior to the incident, homeowners may be unable to receive reimbursement for the cost of restoring safe water. Periodic analyses of the water supply may provide the evidence needed.

Buying Water Treatment Equipment

Most of our friends in the water-treatment business are reputable and honest. Others, however, may use fear tactics and emotion to sell unneeded or over-priced equipment. Water treatment equipment can be very effective, but only if the system is properly engineered. A "free" analysis, provided by a salesman, may be unreliable. All tests should be done at an accredited laboratory. Send copies of your lab reports, together with a description of the problem, to at least three treatment companies. By shopping around, you could find a better price, and by comparing companies, you may get a better system, too!

3. When should I get my water tested?

Flooding or drought may affect the quality of your water supply. Regulatory agencies suggest that, as a standard precaution, private water supplies should be checked quarterly for the presence of total Coliforms. This is an indicator for dangerous bacteria.

4. What will you test?

What to test for depends upon the reason for testing (see "Why" & "When").


No matter how many analyses we do, we can never absolutely guarantee that your water is safe. There are too many pollutants (the list is practically endless), and the tests are expensive. We can, however, recommend certain tests based upon your unique situation.


For those interested in having their water tested, but have no specific concerns, we recommend the following analyses:

Priority One: Total Coliform Bacteria

The availability of bacteriologically safe water is probably the most essential ingredient needed for good health. The Total Coliform test is used to Indicate this.

Next Priority: Lead, Nitrate, and VOCs Lead:

Lead is thought to be responsible for permanent brain and nervous system damage in hundreds of thousands of children. Lead pipes and solder, found in old homes, are usually the source of this pollutant. Draw this sample after the water has sat at least 6 hours, and before using any water.


High concentrations of Nitrate are common in agricultural areas and can be toxic to infants under two years of age.


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are man-made liquid chemicals. Because VOCS are used so often, they frequently appear in drinking water supplies (due to spills). Laboratories test for a list of common VOCs which include dry cleaning fluids and gasoline components.

Other Priorities

Langelier Index (L.I.), also known as Corrosivity, indicates the tendency of water to cause scaling, be corrosive, or be neutral.

Sodium is a "must" analysis for anyone on a salt-restricted diet or at risk of high blood pressure.

Iron and/or Manganese, when present even at low levels, cause either reddish-brown (iron) or grayish-black (manganese) stains. Conventional water softeners may be fouled by these "nuisance" contaminants. Knowledge of their presence could extend the life of your softener.

5. Interpretation

Lab employees are not doctors or public health experts and can not interpret the anticipated health affects of the test results. We can, however, provide a comparison of your test results with guidelines and standards established by state and federal regulatory agencies.

For additional help, see your doctor or call your regional DEP water quality specialist. Phone numbers for the DEP are available from your lab. You may also contact the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.

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