Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Abandon Well Concerns

Would you cut a hole in your arm and then leave it unprotected?

Frankly that is exactly what happens many times every day in rural and suburban areas.  Well owner find that their existing well is inadequate for any of a number of reasons and drill a new well.  What the forget to do is "fill in" the old well to protect the water supply.

That old well becomes a source of contamination to the aquifer, just like the untreated wound in your arm becomes a source of contamination to your blood stream.  And the consequences can be as harmful.

Old abandoned wells are commonly the source of contamination from microorganisms, organic pollutants and other surface related toxins.  Contamination not only enters from the top of the well, but through the soil immediately below the surface.  Occasionally a plume of contamination reaches down significantly beneath the surface.

Depending on the distance between the old well and the new well, the "cross talk" contamination can be almost immediate.   When we do a well inspection and discover that there is an abandoned or seldom used well on the property we always examine the old well.

We drop our camera into the OLD well.  We then turn on the water which draws from the NEW well.  It is very common for the water level in the OLD well to drop almost immediately, which means that they are drawing from the same connected aquifer.  Therefore the contamination which led to the abandonment of the OLD well is now in the new well.

Some folks recommend capping the old well. However, that is really insufficient to protect the aquifer.  Completely filling in the well with cement of or uncontaminated mud is really the only solution to protecting the water supply from contamination that is sourced in the OLD well.

When ever you plan to abandon a well, make sure that you include in you budget the cost of filling in the old well.  It is recommended that you discuss this with your well company at the same time you discuss a new well.  Because new wells are often drilled in an emergency circumstance, this may not be an option. However as soon as the emergency is past, discuss filling in that old well.  It will save many headaches down the road.

Greg Aldrich
ETR Laboratories, Inc.
(800) 344-9977

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

So you want to know more!!!

You know you need your water tested, but what testing should you do? You've read some things. You have analyze the parameter of different tests. Your still not clear what which testing to order for your circumstance! Wha do you do now?  How do you make a decision?

OR . . . . .

Now you have your report.  All those numbers.  Let's face it there is a reason you didn't take and/or understand chemistry in high school.

So now what?  You may be a person who is very concerned about the water and think the results you have raise huge red flags.  We can let you know the real significance.

On the other hand you may say, hmm . . . nothing serious here.   Maybe that is true, but maybe there is a picture we see that suggest potential or real issues.

Give us a call. Our staff is well trained to understand which testing will best suite each circumstance.  And when the report is done we have experience working with thousands of client so they can understand the real  significance of the big picture your testing reveals.

Our experience is that each test is like a your portrait.  It tells a very specific story about the circumstances as they apply to your well water.  There are many examples, but just one example so you can understand how we look at the big picture.

Let's say you have elevated level of sodium, potassium, and/or chloride in you water.  Not necessarily beyond recommended level, but higher than common.  If you have a water softener and the elevation is in the parameters consistent with the salt you are adding to recharge your softener, then there probably is not issue.

On the other hand if you do not have a softener or you are using potassium chloride in your softener, but the levels of sodium, for example, are higher than typically seen, then there is the suggestion of surface water leaking road salt or similar into your well.

The road salt itself is not a huge issue, but the fact that surface water is getting into your well can be a concern.  Frequently a subtle little thing like this reveals the potential for larger issues before they become a big concern.

We believe every client is entitled to a discussion of each report.  We hope that you will consider that as you choose a lab and the level of analysis that you order.

All the best

Greg Aldrich
ETR Laboratories
(978) 840-2941

Friday, March 27, 2015

So the water test says the well has bacteria!. NOW WHAT!

The single most common issue regarding contamination of private well water is Coliform Bacteria. The most common solution to this is to “Shock the well” using household laundry bleach.  Often this will resolve the problem but have you considered the downsides of this solution.

Household bleach has the following issues regarding its use:

  • This product is designed for laundry and not for consumption.  One of the issues is that there are up to 8 ppm of mercury in all brands we have tested. 
  • The water system must be closed down for 12-48 hours in order for this solution to be most effective. For many households this requires moving out for a couple of days with is not always a viable option
  • Often the assumption is that once the well is treated the water is OK, so NO follow up testing is performed. 

Our Laboratory Director, Eric Koslowski, has been working with private well clients for since 1983.  Over that time he has learned a great deal about private well water. Using that knowledge he has developed a comprehensive solution for removing bacteria and other microorganisms from private wells. 

ETR Laboratory’s Well Water Disinfection and Testing Kit is a comprehensive solution to controlling microorganisms in well water. This product does the following:
  1. Concentrates the elimination of microorganisms where they are growing. As a result the level of chlorine at the water tap is roughly equivalent to that in public water.  
  2. Chlorine is of the type and grade recommended by the US EPA for public water supply.
  3. Follow up testing necessary to ensure successful elimination of bacteria is included in the kit. 
  4. Price of the kit is less than the cost of using bleach and getting the follow up testing necessary to fully understand the water quality. While the majority of disinfection treatments reduce bacteria to acceptable levels, in a significant minority of situations, additional treatment of renovations are necessary. 
  5. Some home inspectors inventory these kits and use them and their company staff as an additional revenue source.  
  6. Well drillers/pump installers find using our kit saves them time compared to what they spend on the bleach method.  
This article is intended to be a brief overview of this product. If you would like to learn more about the ETR Well Water Disinfection and Testing Kit, I would be delighted to have that conversation at your convenience.  

Greg Aldrich
(800) 344-9977

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dialysis Unit: Reverse Osmosis Water Testing

Hospitals and clinics offering dialysis have an urgent need to understand the quality of the water used in their patient treatment.   ETR Laboratories has developed substantial expertise in providing the testing these facilities require.   As with any other sample, the only way to have certainty of contaminant free water is to use quality laboratory testing. 

Accuracy is important, but having those the results promptly is essential in order to ensure patients receive the safest possible treatment. 

Testing required testing for these clients includes heterotrophic plate count (also called standard plate count) and endotoxin testing with an occasional mycoplasma analysis.  To ensure timely receipt of samples in the laboratory, ETR Laboratories can arrange for pickup of samples in our service area.  Results of testing are typically available as follows:
  • HPC/SPC - reported 24 and 48 hours after arrival in the lab. Samples received M-F. Reporting 7 days.  
  • Endotoxin - Not later than the end of the business day the sample is received.
  • Mycoplasma - Not later than the end of the business day the sample is received.  
For more information on this contact Greg Aldrich, Director, Sales and Marketing greg@etrlabs.com or Ram Ananthoji, PhD., Laboratory Manager, ram@etrlabs.com or (800) 344-9977.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Environmental Testing

While it is in our name, we seldom promote the perspective that ETR Laboratories does a wide variety of Environmental Testing. Certainly we are best known for our testing of private well water, our work with home inspectors and well and water industry professionals as well as our radon testing.

Yet fully a third of our business is derived from other sectors of
business and industry.  Our Lab Director, Eric Koslowski is well known for
his ability to assist manufacturers, product developers, medical & academic organizations and  facilities managers to resolve issues they have that can best be resolved using a variety of chemical and biochemical solutions.

So over the last few weeks we have published a number of new pages on our website which reflect some f these services.  Here are some of the new or significantly revised pages added to the internet:

If you are a professional in any business, non profit or government organization looking to resolve an issue regarding an unknown substance, verify the performance of a new product or procedure and more, we should talk at your earliest convenience.

Greg Aldrich
ETR Laboratories
(800) 344-9977

Lead in your Drinking Water

Lead is a naturally occurring mineral. However, it RARELY is seen as a contaminant in drinking water from natural sources.  The vast majority of all issues regarding lead are because lead is used somewhere in the infrastructure of the water distribution system. Most often this is the plumbing and appliances in the building where the water is obtained.

There are four key dates or time frames in the evolution of the use of lead in drinking water systems.  They are as follows:
  • 1920-1990.  Prior to 1920 it was common to have lead piping used in public water mains or the pipes leading from the mains to individual buildings. Beginning in 1920 scientists had sufficient knowledge to understand this practice may have public health concerns. However as recently as 1984 some city codes still allowed for use of lead pipes in water distribution systems.  It is important to investigate what the practice was in your community if you own a home built prior to 1990.  Additionally, one of the arguments against replacing lead pipes is that almost universally after a short time frame those pipes are lined with other minerals which reduce or eliminate the leaching of lead into the drinking water. 
  • 1988.  Most plumbing installed prior to this date used solder in the joints which contained a significant amount of lead.  If your home was built in 1987 or before your drinking water may be contaminated with lead. 
  • 1997.  Prior to this year, brass faucets contained 8% lead. Any water left standing in those faucet for a couple of hours or longer is likely to have sufficient lead levels to be a concern.
    That is one of the reasons that running the water briefly prior to drinking or cooking is a good idea.  Starting in 1998 the amount or lead was significantly reduced. The result of this change is a significantly reduction in lead in water, even the first draw. 
  • January 4, 2014.  As of this date all faucets and similar plumbing fixtures must have no more than .25% lead content.  This level makes it even less likely that lead levels in drinking water will be higher than recommended. 
Lead consumption is considered a concern, but is of particular concern for children under 7 year of age. The EPA allowable level for public drinking water is. 0.015 mg/L, or in other terms 15 parts per billion (ppb).  there are generally no rules or regulations regarding private well water or even at your tap which is on a public water system. However, common practice is to ensure that individuals and particular young children do not consume water which has 15 ppb or more of lead.  Competent filtration companies can assist you in reducing the lead levels in your drinking water.  

Water Testing Suggestions
Most experts in private well water recommend annual testing of the water.  Recommended parameters to test for vary broadly depending on the source.  ETR Laboratories has seen sufficient number of cases where water changes over a years time that we believe annual testing should be done with Comprehensive Scan or Health Scan if at all possible.  Both of these scans include lead. 

For homes on a public water system where the home and the infrastructure have been in place since 1990 or before annual testing for lead is recommended . . . particularly if the are young children who live in or visit the home regularly.  Home built since early 2014 where it is known that the infrastructure going all the way back to the utility water treatment plant is relatively modern may not require this testing.  

If you home uses a private well for the water source the owner is responsible for the safety of the water. You can read here about recommendation for annual testing.  In addition to those guidelines ensure that what ever annual test you choose includes lead if the home was built prior to 1997. 

Hopefully this discuss of the issues of lead in drinking water is valuable. If you have additional questions, contact us at ETR Laboratories, Inc.  (800) 344-9977 or info@etrlabs.com.