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State offering free water quality tests for households using private wells for drinking water

An old drinking water well.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
An old drinking water well.

The state of Michigan is offering free water quality tests to private well owners. About a million households rely on private wells in the state for drinking water.

Sara Pearson is the source water unit supervisor within the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy's Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division.

She said people should test their well water once a year.

"Most people just have their water tested just once. However, things in the environment change, groundwater moves, and so your water quality can change over time. Contaminants can be introduced to your groundwater over time," she said.

The state lab will test for lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals, nitrites and nitrates, and fecal bacterial, among other common contaminants.

The test will also see if uranium is present in the water. Uranium occurs naturally in some of the bedrock and groundwater in the western U.P.

But Pearson said the test will not include PFAS — often described as "forever chemicals." 

That's because it's a $300 dollar test, and Pearson said the program's $5 million budget would run out too quickly. She hopes eventually there will be state funding available for PFAS testing as well.

Residents with private wells can order a water testing kit online. The state of Michigan's lab will send bottles, instructions for taking samples, and a return mailing package with postage pre-paid.

Residents will receive a report detailing any contaminants found in the well water. An explanation of the results can be found at the state's "Be Well Informed" website.

Questions about what to do if contamination is found should be directed to the resident's local public health department.

People who want to know if their well has PFAS can pay for a private test with one of these state certified testing labs.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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