Frequently Asked Questions

Test Kit FAQ

What does Well Aware test for?

Currently, Well Aware can test for E. coli bacteria, lead, and arsenic. We are exploring additional testing option for future development, including cadmium and manganese.

Who made Well Aware?

Well Aware was developed through a partnership between researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and CrossComm Inc.

Bacteria Testing FAQ

What is E. coli, and why does Well Aware test for it?

E. coli is a type of bacteria that can indicate your water has been in contact with human or animal waste. Generally, E. coli is not harmful, however if it's found in your water, it could mean that there are other, more harmful, bacteria and viruses present.

Why is it a problem if E. coli is found in my well?

Bacteria that are washed into the ground are usually filtered out as the water goes through the soil and into the groundwater. However, improperly constructed wells, or wells that are cracked, unsealed, or otherwise damaged, can provide a path for bacteria and other microorganisms to enter groundwater and contaminate your drinking water. Intrusion of bacteria into damaged wells is at a greater risk during instances of heavy rainfall, flooding, and hurricanes.

If E. coli can get into your well water, it is more likely that other organisms, such as bacteria and viruses that do cause disease, can also get in. Therefore, the presence of E. coli in your well means that it is time to take action to keep your well water safe.

How much E. coli in my water is safe?

While private wells are not currently regulated by the US EPA, EPA sets guidelines for public piped water systems to be free from E. coli in a 100-mL sample. If any E. coli in a water sample is detected, action should be taken to improve the safety of your well water.

Lead Testing FAQ

Why does Well Aware test for lead?

Lead (Pb) is a toxic metal with no safe level of exposure. Even low levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially in children, pregnant people, and the elderly. Some of these health problems include:

    • Brain and nervous system damage, especially in children

    • Slowed growth and development of children

    • Learning and behavior problems in children

    • Reproductive problems

    • Kidney damage

To learn more, visit the CDC website on Health Effects of Lead Exposure or the EPA Learn about Lead website.

Because lead can cause serious health problems, even in low doses over long periods of time, it's important to reduce how much is in your water as much as possible.

How does lead get into my water?

Most lead in well water comes from the corrosion of metal parts in the well, pipes, or household plumbing. In older homes, pipes and plumbing often contain lead that can leach into the water that you drink. Corrosive water is more likely to leach lead from plumbing. In rare cases, lead can also contaminate well water from natural or industrial sources.

Can I shower in water with lead in it?

Yes – the body does not absorb lead through the skin

If the EPA set the action level at 15ppb, but my level is lower, does that mean I don’t need to do anything?

The EPA action level of 15ppb is set to give a regulatory cutoff for water service providers, however exposure to lead at levels below 15ppb can still cause many negative health effects. This is especially true if you’re exposed to lead over a long period of time. The EPA goal for lead is 0ppb, and this is the only safe level of lead. If you cannot achieve this goal that is okay, but levels of lead that are high may be worth addressing, even if they are below 15ppb.

Do I need a filter?

Most well users do not need a filter to keep lead below US and state guideline levels in their drinking water. The precautionary steps below may be sufficient. If you are concerned that your water elevated lead levels, contact your health department for additional testing, information, and recommendations. Even if lead levels are below these guidelines, some people may choose to use a filter or filtration system. It is entirely up to you to decide if a filter is a good choice for your water. However, if you do choose a filter for lead removal, be sure to choose one that works.

Do all filters remove lead?

Some types of filters remove lead effectively and others do not. Activated carbon and reverse osmosis filters generally remove lead. Water softeners, particle filters, and sand filters generally do not. Most filter cartridges and systems indicate whether they are rated for lead reduction on the packaging – look for an NSF/ANSI Standard 53 certification. However, you may wish to consult your local health department before purchasing any filtration product or system. There are many types of products and systems that do not remove lead effectively (or at all), and your health department may be able to help you if you want a filter system and need help identifying one that removes lead.

What precautionary steps can I take to reduce my exposure to lead?

There are several simple options to reduce lead levels in your water. These are not a substitute for contacting your health department, especially if you find high lead levels, but they can help reduce lead in your water in addition to any other actions that a health official may recommend

Flush your pipes

When you use water for the first time in the morning, or after you have gone for an hour or more without using it, run your water for 1-2 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking. This will flush out your pipes. When water sits in pipes for an extended period of time, more lead can leach into it, so by flushing out the water that has been sitting in your system, you can reduce the amount of lead in your water.

Use cold water

Use only cold water from your faucet for drinking, cooking, or any other type of consumption. Hot water leaches more lead from your pipes than cold water, so the amount of lead in your hot water is likely. If you wish to use hot water for tea, coffee, or food, you should heat up water from cold.

Clean faucet aerators

Clean your faucet’s screen/aerator at least once per year. Debris, including lead particles, can get caught in this screen and contaminate your water.

Change refrigerator filters regularly

If you use water from your refrigerator for drinking, cooking, or consumption, change the filter cartridge on the recommended schedule. Some refrigerators have filter cartridges that use activated carbon, and these can help remove lead from your water if they are changed regularly. The manufacturer will usually indicate how long each cartridge lasts, and you can set a reminder to replace it when it is time.