Our environment is important to us and helping you understand your water means we did our job! Understanding the quality of your drinking water is the first step towards protecting public health and the health of your family. Contamination may occur naturally or as a result of human activity. Your safety is our top priority. The following information will assist you in making the appropriate water testing decision. We classify the common contaminants in the categories microbiological, metals, general, and chemical. Note that this list covers MOST of the tests we offer. Homeowners, don’t be shy to ask which test best suits you! Our full-service laboratory makes water testing easy. Check out our selection of water testing services on our CARO Test Store.
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Common contaminants in drinking water:
- Total coliforms and E.coli can be present as a result of nearby septic systems, sewage discharges, and domestic or wild animal life.
- Heavy metals naturally occur in groundwater in many regions. However, our drinking water can contain a poisonous concentration of metals. Uranium and Arsenic are common metals of concern in the BC interior. Lead and Copper can be concerns in homes with brass fixtures, lead solders and fittings, or copper pipes.
- Agricultural contamination from nearby farming activity may include nitrogen compounds.
- General drinking water parameters relate to the physical characteristics of your water.
We offer an Essential Drinking Water Test Kit that covers all of these common contaminants. It’s a great choice to get this full-array of tests. It allows you to have the peace-of-mind that your water is safe. Homeowners, well owners, and business owners often buy this test as it complies with the Canadian Drinking Water Standards. Contractors love this test since it provides their clients with a thorough list of analysis’.
The government of British Columbia mentions how microbiological testing is the highest priority. This is especially the case for homeowners with a well or a private drinking water source. You’re in luck! CARO offers many testing services that deal with microbiology.
Total Coliforms, E.coli and Fecal Coliforms: Exists naturally in soil, water, and vegetation. Nearby septic systems, sewage discharges, and domestic or wild animal life can promote coliform growth. E.coli is considered the type of coliform that is the best indicator of fecal contamination with the possibility to carry pathogens. The total coliform bacteria test is a primary indicator of “potability”, or suitability for consumption, of drinking water.
Heterotrophic Plate Count (HPC): This test measures colony formation on culture media of heterotrophic bacteria in drinking water. Can be used to measure the overall bacteriological quality of drinking water in public, semi-public and private water systems. High levels of HPC bacteria in a distribution or plumbing system result from bacteria regrowth where bacteria that resisted treatment can grow. You can find our individual HPC test here.
Iron-Related Bacteria (IRB): Iron-related bacteria naturally occur in soil and water. These bacteria combine iron and manganese with oxygen to form deposits of “rust” and slimy build up. Taste and odor problems and “red water” are common symptoms of problems due to iron-related bacteria. We test this by using a Biological Activity Reaction Test (BART).
Sulphur Reducing Bacteria (SRB): Sulphur-reducing bacteria get their energy by reducing elemental sulphur to hydrogen sulfide. They also oxidize acetate or other organic compounds. These bacteria can cause corrosion, clogging, fouling of the water, and increased hygiene risks. We analyze this by using a Biological Activity Reaction Test (BART).
Background Growth: Usually seen as yellow colonies. An indicator of a general bacterial population in a sample. This can lead to many other health concerns. Any microbiological test can determine if there is bacterial background growth.
Inorganic subtances that occur naturally. Some metals are essential for life and are naturally availble in our food, soil, and water. However, our drinking water can contain a poisonous concentration of metals. To see our tests that deal with metals, click here!
Lead: Lead is a neurotoxin, a carcinogen, and a heavy metal that bioaccumulates in the body. Children and pregnant mothers are the most vulnerable since even extremely low levels of exposure are toxic and very difficult to eliminate. Lead gets into the water most commonly from the corrosion of plumbing parts. It was common for older houses to use paint with lead inside it. If you suspect your house has this, we urge you to get our Lead in Paint test kit as soon as possible! Our Lead in Water test kit is one of our best selling tests.
Copper: Even though copper poisoning from water is rare, it does happen. People who drink from well water are at a higher risk for copper poisoning because their water isn’t as regulated as a public system. Copper contamination usually occurs from corrosion in the water delivery system. Copper piping and fittings are widely used in household plumbing. The longer water has stood idle in the pipes, the more copper it is likely to have absorbed. Newer homes with copper pipes are more likely to have this problem because these pipes haven’t developed a coating to help insulate the water passing through. Short-term exposure to high levels of copper can cause gastrointestinal distress. Long-term exposure and severe cases of copper poisoning can cause anemia and disrupt liver and kidney functions.
Arsenic: An odourless and tasteless semimetal that occurs naturally in the earth and the seas. Consumption of food and water are the major sources of arsenic exposure. Exposure can come from industrial sources as well. An arsenic test is common for people using a private water source. This is because wells are more susceptible to pollutants from weathering and surface arsenic-related pollutants are easily distributed by rain and snow weathering the ground.
Mercury: A naturally occurring element found in air, water and soil. There are several ways humans can be exposed to it and the EPA describe it very well in this article. Nearly all methylmercury exposures in the U.S. occur through eating fish and shellfish that contain higher levels of methylmercury. Other than Mercury being highly toxic, there are many signs and symptoms that you may a victim of mercury poisoning.
Common General Parameters
These are the most common parameters included when one of our packages mentions general parameters. Generally, these are for the physical characteristics of the water.
Turbidity: Measures the cloudiness of water. In order to analyze this, we shine a beam of light through the water to see how much is reflected off particles. Turbidity assesses suspended particulate in the water. These particles, or suspended solids, can contain bacteria and viruses. Some particles are large enough and heavy enough to eventually settle to the bottom of a container if the sample is left still. Health risks increase as turbidity rises.
Conductivity: Impurities in the water can affect the water’s ability to conduct electricity. Pure, distilled water is a poor conductor of electricity. When salts and other inorganic chemicals dissolve in water, they break into tiny, electrically charged particles called ions. Ions increase the water’s ability to conduct electricity. Common ions in water that conduct electrical current well include sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. For a full description, visit this page.
Total Dissolved Solids: Water is a good solvent and picks up substances easily. Dissolved solids refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) comprises of inorganic salts and some small amount of organic matter that dissolve in the water. TDS in drinking water originates from natural sources, sewage, urban runoff, industrial wastewater, and chemicals used in the water treatment process. Learn more here.
Temperature: A key factor of water quality. The temperature of the released water can affect downstream habitants. Temperature affects the dissolved oxygen levels in water, the rate of photosynthesis, metabolic rates of organisms, etc. Aquatic organisms depend on particular temperature ranges for their health. Each species of organism thrives in a specific temperature range, and many animals use temperature as a signal for when to reproduce and when to migrate. If there is an abnormality in temperature this can disrupt the balance of aquatic ecosystems with devastating effect. Water temperature also impacts water density; differences in water temperature and density can cause stratification.
Anions: These compounds include Chloride, Fluoride, Nitrate, Nitrite and Sulfate. Each of these compounds have different symptoms and affects to our body. If enough organic and inorganic salts enter into the water system, they make water toxic and poisonous to drink.
Cyanide: One of the most commonly used chemicals in the world. Its widespread use and highly reactive nature increases the potential for cyanide to enter the environment. Mining clients and environmental consultants are concerned with cyanide due to manufacturing, combustion, or other sources. People can be exposed by breathing air, drinking water, eating food, or touching soil that contains cyanide. Survivors of serious cyanide poisoning may develop heart, brain and nerve damage. For a full description of cyanide check out our article or the CDC’s cyanide fact sheet. Plus, we offer an individual cyanide test for water, soil, or food!
Sulfide: Two forms of sulphur are commonly found in drinking water: sulphate and hydrogen sulfide. Sulfate minerals can cause scale to build up in water pipes similar to other minerals and may be associated with a bitter taste in water that can have a laxative effect on humans and young livestock. Hydrogen Sulfide gas produces a “rotten egg” or “sulphur water” odour and taste in the water. The nuisance associated with hydrogen sulfide includes its corrosiveness to metals such as iron, steel, copper, and brass. It can tarnish silverware and discolor copper and brass utensils. Also, sulfide can cause yellow or black stains on kitchen and bathroom fixtures. But don’t worry! CARO has an individual test for sulfide for either water or soil.
Hardness: Hardness in water is caused by dissolved calcium, magnesium, and mineral ions which makes a significant concentration. Hardness in the water can cause scaling in pipes and water heaters, which can cause energy loss in your home’s water system, such as boilers, cooling systems, plumbing, and heating appliances. This causes excessive soap consumption and scaling. We offer an individual hardness test as well!
Chemicals can enter waterways from an industrial site and also the movement of rainwater over land picks up pollutants such as fertilizers, insecticides and make water toxic. We offer many tests for chemistry parameters.
Chemical Oxygen Demand: Tests for the capacity of water to consume oxygen during decomposition of organic matter and the oxidation of inorganic chemicals such as ammonia and nitrite. COD measurements are commonly made on samples of wastewater or natural waters contaminated by domestic or industrial waste. We sell an individual Chemical Oxygen Demand test as well.
Biochemical Oxygen Demand: BOD is used as a gauge of wastewater treatment effectiveness. It tests for the amount of dissolved oxygen that must be present in a sample to allow microorganisms to decompose the organic material. The higher the BOD value, the greater amount of organic matter or “food” available for oxygen-consuming bacterias.
pH: Stands for the “power of hydrogen”. It measures how acidic/basic the water is. pH’s of less than 7 indicates acidity, where pH above 7 says its basic, or alkaline. Since pH can be affected by chemicals in the water, pH is an important indicator of water that is chemically changing. Pollution can change a water’s pH, which in turn can harm plants and animals that live in or depend on the water.
Alkalinity: Total Alkalinity is the measurement of the water’s ability to resist a change in pH. Measuring alkalinity is important for determining a river’s ability to neutralize acids. Also known as the water’s capacity to resist changes in pH that could make water more acidic. This is important for aquatic life because they function best in a pH from 6 to 9.
Nitrate: Usually introduced into groundwater by leaching of chemical fertilizers, animal manure, or groundwater pollution from septic or sewage discharge. The can be hard to detect. The health concern tied to nitrates is how it can harm infants by reducing their ability of blood transporting oxygen. The Government of BC recommends well owners to test for Nitrates in their well annually.
Pesticides: These include a large group of chemical agents that attempt to eliminate destructive biological forces in agriculture. For example; herbicides for killing plants, insecticides for killing insects, fungicides for killing fungus, and bactericides for killing bacteria. While these chemicals supposedly only target specific species, repeated use inevitably kills the microbial life that is beneficial to the soil system. Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation. Also, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants. The use of pesticides has been too effective to the point that it is causing considerable pollution to our environment. We do pesticide testing for water, soil, and food!
Fluoride: Fluoride occurs naturally in the environment and in groundwater. At low levels, fluoride helps clean teeth and reduce the chance of dental cavities, but at high concentrations of exposure, it can cause dental fluorosis: yellowing of teeth, pitting and alteration of tooth enamel. High fluoride levels are known in parts of the Okanagan and Shuswap regions of BC. It is common for well owners to be concerned about their water’s fluoride levels.
Corrosivity: Corrosion can impact your families health and damage your household piping and fixtures. Corrosion is an oxidation/reduction reaction between the water and metal surfaces. Having corrosive water in your plumbing system or private water system, it raises the chance toxic metals being present in your water. These metals include lead, copper, chromium, and zinc. Also, there are many aesthetic concerns tied to corrosivity. Water that is known to be corrosive tastes bitter, can stain laundry, and create greenish-blue stains around basins and drains.
Chlorine: Used to disinfect water for almost a century because of its incredible ability to kill bacteria and viruses in the water. In water, chlorine reacts to form hypochlorous acid and hypochlorites and could be potentially harmful if consumed. It is vital that you make sure water is tested correctly and that there are no short-term or long-term risks present in their water before suggesting treatment or pretreatment.
Trihalomethanes (THM): Byproduct of chlorination. THMs occur when chlorine reacts with organic matter in water. According to The Government of Canada, animals exposed to very high levels of THM have increased the risk of cancer. THMs can be easily absorbed by the body when: water containing high levels comes in contact with the skin, if they are consumed in food prepared in water, or if they’re inhaled during showering or bathing.
Haloacetic Acids (HAA): Byproduct of chlorination. Excessive levels can cause nervous system and liver effects. Exposure to a high concentration of HAA over a short period of time in drinking water can cause severe irritation to the skin. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified the acid as a Group 2B cancer classification, which means it may cause cancer in humans.
Aesthetic concerns: Aestheic Concerns are one of the two main classifications for water contamination. This relates to the way it looks, tastes, and smells. Our aesthetics concerns package covers Colour, Transmissivity, Ammonia, Sulfide, and Total Organic Carbon.
Disinfection by-products: Our Disinfection By-Products package, tests for Chlorate, Chlorite (total and free), Trihalomethane (THM), and Haloacetic Acids (HAA). As a residential pool or hot tub/spa owner, it is your responsibility to regularly check chlorine concentration to help protect yourself, family and your friends from recreational water illnesses .
We also do testing for:
- PPCPs – Pharmaceutical & Personal Care Products
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Dissolved Metals
How Often Should I Test My Drinking Water?
If you own your own private source of water, it’s your obligation to keep it clean and monitored. Several official health websites around Canada strongly advise well owners to test for microbiology annually due to contaminants fostering easier in unregulated water. Homeowners and business owners are urged to test annually, especially if the building was built when more toxic materials were prevalent in construction. Any new source of water must be tested before consumption to be sure that the water is safe.
- Private Wells:
The BCMOE recommends that private well owners have their water tested annually for total coliforms and E. coli.
- Water Systems:
The BCMOE requires that water systems with <5000 connection must have 4 samples tested per month for total coliform and E coli.
- Additional Testing:
It is recommended that comprehensive chemical analysis be conducted for all new drinking water wells and after that periodically. HealthLinkBC’s “Should I Get my Drinking Water Tested?” program provides a recommended general assessment of drinking water quality for most healthy persons.
Water Testing Packages:
|Package||Description||Included||Price||Learn More and Order|
|Bacteria in Water||This indicates the influence of surface water, septic and animal fecal matter. This also meets the definition of potability for most mortgages.||Total Coliforms, E.coli||$99.00||ORDER NOW|
|Essential Drinking Water Test Kit (Comprehensive) |
|Parameters frequently required for drinking water approval. This meets requirements of Environmental Health Officers in North, Central and & South Okanagan and in the East Kootenay regions.1||Total Coliforms, E. Coli, Alkalinity, Aluminum, Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Boron, Cadmium, Calcium, Chloride, Chromium, Copper, Conductivity, Cyanide, Fluoride, Hardness (total), Iron, Lead, Magnesium, Manganese, Mercury, Nitrate, Nitrite, pH, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Sulfate, Total Dissolved Solids, Turbidity, Uranium, Zinc||$324.00||ORDER NOW|
|Basic Drinking Water Package||This tests for most common concerns for potability without microbiology.||Alkalinity, Aluminum, Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Boron, Cadmium, Calcium, Chloride, Chromium, Copper, Conductivity, Cyanide, Fluoride, Hardness (total), Iron, Lead, Magnesium, Manganese, Mercury, Nitrate, Nitrite, pH, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Sulfate, Total Dissolved Solids, Turbidity, Uranium, Zinc||$225.00||ORDER NOW|
|Aesthetic Concerns||Aesthetic effects (e.g. taste, odour) are taken into account when these play a role in determining whether consumers will consider the water drinkable.||Colour, Transmissivity, Ammonia, Sulfide, Total Organic Carbon||$125.00||ORDER NOW|
|Disinfection By-Products||Typical parameters of concern on chlorinated water.||Chlorate, Chlorite, Chlorine (Total and Free), THM, HAA||$350.00||ORDER NOW|
|COMPLETE Potability Drinking Water Test Kit||Everything in the Comprehensive drinking water list plus everything else in the CDWQG. If you want complete peace of mind by testing for all parameters that health Canada has identified as potential concerns in water, this package is for you.||Includes everything listed in above packages and basically everything in the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.||$1999.00||ORDER NOW|