FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I know what tests I need?

If you are questioning the quality or safety of your drinking water, you probably already have an idea of the possible contaminates. The following is a guide to selecting tests. Also, be sure to check the list of common contaminants.

Conditions or Nearby Activities:

Test for:

Recurring gastro-intestinal illness

Coliform bacteria

House built before 1986 or live in an older neighborhood

Lead

Corrosion of pipes, plumbing

pH, lead, iron reducing bacteria

Nearby areas of intensive agriculture

Nitrates, pesticides, coliform bacteria

Coal or other mining operations nearby

Metals, pH

Gas drilling operations nearby

Chloride, sodium, barium

Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-cleaning operation nearby

Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals

Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks

Volatile organic compounds

Objectionable taste or smell

Sufate reducing bacteria, sulfate, metals

Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry

Iron, copper, manganese

Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby

Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium

Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather

Hardness

Rapid wear of water treatment equipment

pH, alkalinity, hardness

 

Well Water:

If you get your water from a private or shared well, you should have your water tested annually. Well water is susceptible to many contaminants including bacteria, nitrates and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The potentially dangerous contaminates can go unnoticed for years unless you test your water. Some states like Wisconsin have very specific regulations for private wells, but even if your state does not require testing, you should still test your well water on a regular basis.

Common individual tests for well water:

Test for arsenic in drinking water

     


    Common packages for well water:

    Includes 46
    Contaminants:

    • Total Coliform Bacteria
    • Nitrates, Total
    • Iron
    • 11 Regulated
      Metals (including
      Arsenic, Copper
      & Lead)
    • Hard Water Check
    • Pesticides/Herbicides
      Screen
    • VOCs

    Includes 27
    Contaminants:

    • Total Coliform Bacteria
    • Nitrates
    • Arsenic
    • Copper
    • Lead
    • VOCs

    Includes 2
    Contaminants:

    • Total Coliform Bacteria
    • Nitrates

    Includes 5
    Contaminants:

    • Total Coliform Bacteria
    • Nitrates
    • Arsenic
    • Copper
    • Lead

    Includes 7
    Contaminants:

    • Alkalinity
    • Calcium
    • Hardness
    • Magnesium
    • pH
    • Sodium
    • Turbidity

    For more information:

    US EPA - Consumer Information on Private Wells

    State Specific Guidance: (external site links)

    2. I have city water. Do I still need to test my water?

    Most people receive water from a municipal, community or public water supply also known as city water. Public water supplies are required to test their water on a regular basis by the EPA and make the results available to you in a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). To find your local drinking water information click here. Even if you receive your water from a public water supply, you should still consider testing your drinking water for a variety of reasons, including:

    If your home was built before 1986 or if you live in an older neighborhood you should test for Lead. Lead problems in Chicago, Milwaukee and Flint Michigan have raised this issue to the top of the list of drinking water concerns.

    If you are experiencing routine gastrointestinal problems you may want to test for Bacteria

    Or if you suspect a broken pipe or just do not trust the results from your public water supply you may want to test your water for a variety of parameters.

    Common tests for city water:

    Includes Total
    Coliform only

    Includes Lead
    only

    Includes 5
    Contaminants

    • Coliform
    • Nitrates
    • Arsenic
    • Copper
    • Lead

    Includes 7
    Contaminants

    • Alkalinity
    • Calcium
    • Hardness
    • Magnesium
    • pH
    • Sodium
    • Turbidity

    Includes 22
    Contaminants


    3. What is the difference between your tests and “free water tests” offered from Home Depot and other companies?

    Nothing is free. Those free tests are often performed by unskilled individuals using test strips or other inaccurate methods. Most of these companies are using the free water test as a way to get you to buy their expensive water treatment systems. Suburban Labs employs trained chemists and microbiologists and uses EPA approved methods in a state-of-the-art laboratory. We only test water quality and will never try to sell you other products.

    4. Will you tell me if my water is safe?

    The report will identify any contaminants and if they are present at a level above the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If a contaminant is found above the MCL, the water should be considered unsafe.

    5. How do I order a drinking water test kit?

    Ordering a test kit is fast and easy. Simply add the test to the cart and follow the on-screen instructions to purchase. We will need your mailing and billing address and you will need to select how you would like to receive the test kit. You can have it shipped to you or you can pick up the kit from our office. There are specific instructions for returning samples that will be presented during the ordering process.

    6. How long does it take to get the water test kit and the final report?

    Test kits are mailed within the week, and you will have the option to select rush shipping or to pick up the kit from our office. Most reports are emailed to you within a week; however some tests such as radiologicals and semi-volatile organics take longer.

    7. How do I collect the samples?

    Easy to follow sampling instructions will be provided with the test kit. You can also download them here. We have also prepared short videos for your convenience.

    8. How do I return the samples to your lab?

    You are responsible for the cost and care of returning samples to the laboratory. If using a commercial carrier such as UPS or FedEx, we recommend packing the samples in bubble wrap or other packing material to minimize breakage. Samples for Coliform Bacteria must be returned with 24 hours of sample collection. It is essential that samples are returned ASAP after collection. There are no refunds for damaged shipments or samples received past holding time.

    9. What does the report look like?

    Our final reports are easy to read and include the detection limit and the EPA drinking water limit so you can see exactly what is in your water. To request an example report, please contact us.

    10. How often should I test my drinking water?

    We recommend you test your drinking water once per year, especially if you have well water or concerns over the quality of your water.

    11. Why should I choose Suburban Laboratories?

    Suburban Laboratories has tested over 1 million drinking water samples. Large and small municipalities trust us for their drinking water testing and we help these public water systems maintain a 99.8% compliance rate. All we do is testing, so we will never try to sell you a water treatment system. At Suburban Laboratories, we make testing your drinking water fast and easy.

    12. Are there discounts for multiple samples?

    If you have a large number of samples in excess of $1000, please contact us for a quantity discount.  Also, large customers with repeat business can set up a commercial account.  Please contact us for more information.