If you own a home or are planning to buy a home that gets its water supply from a private well, you may want to check on how safe that water is for drinking and cooking purposes. Unlike public water utility companies, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, does not regulate wells, meaning the water coming from them can vary greatly, and, in some cases, may not be safe to drink. Well water comes up through the ground, and, for this reason, it can be chock-full of contaminants it picks up from the ground.
For example, if you live in or around an agricultural area, there may be nitrate, coliform bacteria or pesticides in your water. If the pipes are old, they may be made of lead and there could therefore be lead in the water. A drinking water testing lab can tell you whether or not these or other pollutants are in your well water. That same well water may be safe to use for toilets, bathing, or washing clothes, but you would not want to use it for cooking, drinking or washing dishes.
There may be other pollutants you are unaware of and you can contact the EPA to find out what you should be looking for in the area where you live. Then you can contact a lab that does drinking water testing and have them analyze a sample. Once you know what you are dealing with, you can determine if the well can be treated or if it needs to be replaced.