- Lead, Copper, and other Heavy Metals
- Bacterial Contaminants (total coliform, E coli and microorganisms)
- Nitrites and Nitrates
- Inorganic and Organic Compounds (Both Volatile and Synthetic Organic Chemicals)
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
- Trichloroethylene (TCE)
- Perchloroethylene (PCE)
- Total trihalomethane (TTHM)
- pH levels
Is Water Testing Important?
Long-term exposure to contaminants in drinking water can have potential health effects such as gastrointestinal illnesses, increased risk of cancer, organ failure and more. In the case of lead and other heavy metals, children are particularly susceptible as their nervous systems are still developing. Protect your family’s health from contaminants by having water testing conducted.
Lead in Drinking Water Testing
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) requires the use of lead-free (less than 0.2% lead) pipes, solder, and flux during the installation or repair of public water systems or the plumbing in facilities where the water is used for drinking. However, many buildings contain older plumbing components containing high concentrations of lead that may leach into the drinking water. Karl Environmental Group’s team of dedicated Industrial Hygienists have collected thousands of drinking water samples from schools, homes, and public buildings. Read our blog for more information about lead in drinking water and what you can do to protect your health!
Residential Well Sampling
Private drinking wells are not monitored by the EPA once they are installed. The homeowner is responsible for testing and monitoring their drinking water. Private water wells can be impacted from various sources which include:
- Landfill seepage
- Failed septic tanks
- Leaking underground storage tanks
- Leaching of fertilizers and pesticides
- Urban run-off
Although drilled wells are typically at less risk for contamination, no well should be assumed as contamination-free. Underground storage tanks should be checked regularly for any leaks and working sensors.
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) recommends well owners conduct water testing for bacteria, nitrates, and any contaminants of local concern annually. You should consider testing your water more often if:
- There is a change in the taste, odor, or appearance of your well water
- A problem occurs such as a broken well cap, flooding, or the possibility of new contamination
- Your well has had a problem with bacterial contamination in the past
- You’ve experienced a malfunctioning septic system
- Exposure to your water has resulted in incidents of illness
- There is an infant living in the home
- You wish to monitor the efficiency and performance of your home water treatment equipment
Karl Environmental can provide you with recommendations regarding the type and frequency of testing specific to your location. Located in Reading, PA, we are only a short drive from Lancaster, Allentown, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg. We can provide water testing services to eastern Pennsylvania and all of New Jersey.
Total coliform is the most commonly used indicator of bacterial contamination. Total coliform are bacteria that are found in the digestive tracts of animals and are commonly found on plants and in soil. The presence of coliform bacteria is an “indicator” of a well’s possible contamination from human or animal wastes. Living close to a sanitary landfill or garbage dump is also a concern. Depending on the species, health effects can turn lethal.
Common sources of nitrate to well water are fertilizers, septic systems, animal manure, and leaking sewer lines. Nitrate also occurs naturally from the breakdown of nitrogen compounds in soil and rocks. High levels of nitrate in well water present a health concern and can also indicate the presence of other contaminants, such as bacteria and pesticides. Drinking large amounts of water with nitrates is particularly threatening to infants (for example, when mixed in formula) who can contract “blue-baby” syndrome depriving them of oxygen.
Mining and construction can introduce heavy metals into the water supply. Interestingly, if you live near an old fruit orchard, arsenic could be an issue as it used to be used as a pesticide. In homes built before 1986, the pipes, fixtures and solder are probably made of lead and can leach into the water if the pH is conducive to corrosion of the plumbing materials. Children are especially at risk if drinking lead-contaminated water.
Typical additional tests are those for pH, hardness, iron, manganese, sulfides, and other water constituents that cause problems with plumbing, staining, water appearance, and odor. Changes in these constituents also may indicate changes in your well or local groundwater. Additional tests may be recommended if water appears cloudy or oily, if bacterial growth is visible on fixtures, or water treatment devices are not working as they should.
NPDES Permit Sampling
According to the EPA, anyone who discharges into a fishable stream or body of water must have a NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit. Created by the Clean Water Act in 1972, NPDES permits are issued to certain facilities in order to regulate the amount of pollutants being discharged into our waterways. The facilities are considered “point sources” and include industrial discharge, municipal wastewater discharge, storm water run-off (municipal separate storm sewer systems, construction activities, industrial activities) and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), for example.
Regulated pollutants include conventional pollutants:
- Fecal coliforms – bacteria typically found in the digestive tracts of humans and animals which may be pathogenic
- Oil and grease – organic substances such as hydrocarbons, fats, and waxes
- Toxic pollutants – particularly harmful chemicals to animals and plants; organics: pesticides, solvents, PCBs; metals: lead, silver, mercury, copper, etc.
… and non-conventional pollutants:
- Any other substance that may be considered toxic to animal or plant life
Based off of the permit issued either by the state or the EPA, each facility site has its own effluent limit. The frequency of sampling for benchmark concentrations is also based off of the permit and is different for each site or type of industry.
NPDES permits cover a wide-range of industries including municipal wastewater treatment plants, CAFOs, construction and development, industrial wastewater and aquaculture farms. Depending on the frequency of sampling dictated by the NPDES permit, Karl Environmental is available for periodic surveillance of water discharge from your facility.
In the construction industry, any development that takes place can alter the water cycle due to the change in landscape. Therefore, the company needs a NPDES permit to ensure that there is no-net-change in the storm water cycling at the property. Both small and large construction projects are covered under this permitting system (large projects: 5 or more acres disturbance; small projects: 1 to less than 5 acres disturbance).
Erosion and sediment controls need to be in place also. Sediment is actually considered a pollutant by the Department of Environmental Protection. It adversely affects the environment by clogging fish gills and covering their eggs, covering the habitat at the bottom of the stream necessary for aquatic life, deprives aquatic plants of light access, carry pollutants such as heavy metals, etc.
Per the law, all construction operators must develop, implement and maintain an E&S and Post Construction Stormwater Management (PCSM) Best Management Practices program for their site. Karl Environmental is happy to visit your construction site for a site assessment to ensure these controls are in place and the company is using Best Management Practices (BMPs) to control storm water release. Most NPDES permits require a quarterly visual inspection and a detailed inspection during a rain event.
For more information on why water testing may be important for you, visit these sites:
For additional information Karl Environmental’s industrial hygienists are here to help, Contact Us today.