Public Health Tests Available to Wisconsin Citizens
- Arsenic: Arsenic is a toxic element that occurs naturally in soil, bedrock and groundwater. Exposure to high levels of arsenic has been shown to dramatically increase the risk of cancer, circulatory disorders and other health problems. Arsenic in drinking water has become a major public health issue in Wisconsin, especially in the Fox River valley. Public health officials recommend that people with private wells in Winnnebago, Outagamie or Brown Counties have their water periodically tested for arsenic.
- Atrazine: Atrazine is the most commonly used pesticide in Wisconsin. If present in drinking water in amounts above the advisory level of 3.0 parts per billion (ppb), atrazine may pose a cancer risk.
- Coliform Bacteria: Water samples are tested for the presence of total coliform bacteria. If total coliform bacteria are present, it means the well is possibly contaminated and that disease-producing organisms may also be present. This test is recommended for all wells on an annual basis or any time the well water changes in taste, odor, color or appearance.
- Copper: Copper in our diet is necessary for good health. If present in drinking water above the U.S. EPA limit of 1300 ug/L, immediate effects include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea. Children under one year of age and people with damaged livers are more sensitive.
- Fluoride: Fluoride is generally tested at the request of your dentist or other health official.
- Iron Bacteria: Iron bacteria in wells do not cause health problems, but they can have unpleasant and possibly expensive effects. The bacteria can cause odors, corrode plumbing equipment, clog well screens and pipes and increase the chances of sulfur bacteria infestation. For more information, please read this DNR PDF.
- Lead: Lead is a toxic metal which has been used in the construction of most older household plumbing systems in Wisconsin until its use was banned in 1984. Federal and state standards have established an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) for drinking water. Lead has no beneficial effects and should be avoided as much as possible.
- Nitrate: High nitrate levels in drinking water pose a risk to infants. Infants under six months of age who are fed water or formula made with water that is high in nitrate can develop a condition called methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome.” State and federal laws set the maximum allowable level for nitrate-nitrogen in public drinking water at 10 milligrams per liter (ppm).
- Radon (in air):The purpose of this measurement is to quickly determine if your home contains high concentrations of radon gas. A single measurement should not serve as the basis for beginning repairs. Instead, this test will provide information for deciding if there is a need for an additional measurement.
- Radon* (in water): To determine the presence of radon 222 in drinking water. Radon 222 is a naturally occurring radioactive substance.
(* It is recommended that the homeowner contact the laboratory for advice before ordering this test.)
- Sulfate Reducing Bacteria: Sulfate reducing bacteria do not cause illness but are nuisance bacteria. The bacteria can cause odors, corrode plumbing, clog screens and pipes. For more information, please read this DNR PDF.
- Fecal Coliform Bacteria in swimming beach water: Beaches where swimming is allowed should be tested for water quality before the swimming season begins (to get a baseline of contamination due to natural wildlife or runoff) and each week thereafter until the area closes. A membrane filtration test is used to give a fecal coliform or E. coli count per 100 mL of water. Counts will vary during the season depending on usage and environmental factors. Beaches are regulated by local ordinance. Fecal Coliform: The general rule for quality maintenance is that no one fecal coliform count should exceed 400 CFU/100 mL, and that the average of 5 samples over 30 days should not exceed 200 CFU/100 mL. E. coli: The general rule for quality maintenance is that no one E.coli count should exceed 235 CFU/100 mL and that the average of 5 samples over 30 days should not exceed 126 E.coli.
- Heterotrophic Plate Count:
This test estimates the number of live heterotrophic bacteria and measures changes during water treatment and distribution. Samples must be received under 10° C and within 8 hours of collection for enforcement.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa:
This test is generally used to measure the disinfection efficiency of whirlpools, pools and spas.