There are a lot of benefits to having a well, but one of the downsides is that you can be dealing with contaminants like arsenic.
Colorless and odorless, arsenic can end up in your drinking water without you realizing it.
Whether you suspect you have arsenic in your well water, or you want to give yourself peace of mind that there isn’t any in it, then you’ll need to test.
Luckily, testing for arsenic in well water is very easy these days unlike in the past. There are quite a few test kits that can be done from home.
In this article I will highlight the ways you can test for arsenic in your well water and be able to sleep easy knowing your water is safe to drink.
In this article:
- Signs you may have arsenic in your drinking water
- Minimal acceptable limits of arsenic in drinking water
- Arsenic test kits for drinking water at home
- Industrial Test Systems Quick II 481303-5 Arsenic for Drinking Water Review
- Safe Home PREMIUM Drinking Water Test Kit Review
- How to do the tests
- What to do if your well water tests positive for arsenic
- FAQ About Arsenic Testing
- Final Thoughts
Signs you may have arsenic in your drinking water
Unfortunately, you can’t taste or see arsenic in water. The only way you would know you have it in your water is to test.
There are some symptoms of arsenic poisoning that could present themselves but they also could be present for other reasons.
Here are some of the signs that you may have been drinking arsenic:
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty breathing
As you can see, that sounds a lot like the flu. In other words, don’t look for these types of symptoms. Many people that have arsenic poisoning don’t know about it for years as they may just think they had a virus.
After years of drinking arsenic you may have darkened skin, numbness in the hands and feet and lack of muscle coordination. Those, of course, are extreme examples.
Don’t wait to see signs or symptoms before you act. You should be testing your well water every year for coliform bacteria, arsenic and other contaminants found commonly in well water.
Minimal acceptable limits of arsenic in drinking water
Even at low levels arsenic is toxic and a known carcinogen. The lowest acceptable level in drinking water set by the EPA is 10 micrograms per liter of water. That translates into about 38 micrograms per gallon of water. It may also be described as being 10 parts per billion as being safe to drink.
The trick then is finding a test that can detect accurately how much is in the water that you’re drinking.
Arsenic test kits for drinking water at home
There are a number of very accurate kits for testing arsenic at home that are cheap, fast and easy to use.
Here are a couple that I recommend to see if your arsenic levels are safe.
Industrial Test Systems Quick II 481303-5 Arsenic for Drinking Water Review
- Detects Inorganic Arsenic (III&V)
- Results in only 14 minutes
- Uses safer reagents than competing test kits
- Used by International Aid Organizations for well screening
- Levels of Detection = <1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 20, 25, 30, 40, >50, >80, >120, >160
Get professional level test results in less than 15 minutes from your own home. You can get results within just a few parts per billion as you would get from a lab tested sample. If you see results lower than 5ppb, you can feel safe drinking that water. If it seems to be hovering somewhere around 10, then you should definitely get yourself a filter to remove the arsenic and then test again after that.
The process is easy to do yet complex enough to feel that it is not so simple a process as to give you inaccurate results. There are three steps to follow to make sure you get an accurate reading. False positives are not a problem as it removes Hydrogen Sulfide that would interfere with the results.
Overall, an easy to use, accurate and fast way to check your arsenic levels at home.
Safe Home PREMIUM Drinking Water Test Kit Review
- EPA Certified Lab for Well Water & City Water
- FREE RETURN SHIPPING of your water sample
- 50 different contaminants tested in 1 kit including arsenic
- Test results are emailed back to you
If you want to be 100% sure about arsenic in your drinking water and don’t mind a short wait then this is your answer.
You will collect samples according to the instructions and send it to their lab with the included postage paid labels.
In about 7 to 10 business days, you will receive an email with a PDF file that shows the exact level of every one of the contaminants in an easy to read format. Pre screen tests are also included so you can get a rough idea of what may be lurking in your water while you are waiting for the lab results. You can test for total coliform and E Coli from home with the pre screen test.
The lab tests will give you results for 6 In-Organics, 12 Physical Properties, and 32 Toxic Metals.
How to do the tests
Your best results are going to come from running tests from your home plumbing fixtures and not from the well water itself.
Taking samples from the drill rig pump are not likely to be very accurate.
You should also not take samples when your water has been sitting in the pipes for long. If you’ve just come back from vacation make sure to run the water for a few minutes before taking the sample. Even if it is first thing in the morning, make sure you let the water run so the sitting water has a chance to run off.
The temperature of the water should not be less than 68°F and not more than 86°F. You should definitely use a thermometer to make sure the temperature is correct or you’ll get inaccurate results.
Also, the reagents used are very sensitive to direct sunlight. Do the test in natural light, but try to avoid letting the test strip get exposed to direct sunlight.
What to do if your well water tests positive for arsenic
The first thing you should do if your well has arsenic is to contact your local water department to ask them about any special procedures you’ll need to do. Keep in mind that since you have a private well they may not be able to help much, but it is worth contacting them.
Getting rid of arsenic yourself is actually very easy.
There are a number of types of filters for well owners that will get rid of arsenic as well as other contaminants.
Filters such as:
Check those types to see which kind is going to be best for you.
I wrote a very detailed article about how to remove arsenic from tap water. There are a lot of ways to get rid of it so click that link to see the best method for you.
FAQ About Arsenic Testing
As long as the levels are under 500ppb then you can bathe and even swim in arsenic contaminated water. Your skin won’t allow the arsenic to penetrate and get into your system. Almost all arsenic poisoning happens when it is ingested.
No, it doesn’t accumulate in the body. Even if you have symptoms of arsenic poisoning they will go away after you’ve removed the arsenic from your water.
There are many at home tests that will test samples from hair to urine. You can do this privately at home or call your local physician and ask them if there is a lab that can test for you.
It may sound dramatic and outright dangerous to think that you’ve been drinking well water with arsenic in it.
Though it can obviously be a big problem if you are drinking it over a long period of time, it is not something that can’t be solved quickly and easily.
With the right arsenic test kit for well water, you can then either sleep easy knowing you don’t have arsenic or, if it tests positive, then you can start the process of removing it.
Either way, you’ll be back to pure drinking water before you know it.
Any questions about well water tests or anything else? Leave me a message in the box below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.