Contaminants in drinking water may cause chronic (i.e. long term) health effects as a result of digesting small doses over a period of time. High levels of contaminants can also pose acute (short term) health effects. Pregnant women, babies and young children may be more vulnerable to certain drinking water contaminants. In addition to risks posed by consumption, showering and other uses can pose health risks with certain contaminants. For more information on human health concerns, click here.
Some contaminants occur naturally, while others flow from human activities. For example, arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant that poses significant health risks. On the other hand, human activities – such as leaks, spills, land use changes, septic systems, landfills, fertilizers/pesticides, sewage, animal waste, fuel storage tanks, etc. – can produce contaminants that enter aquifers and groundwater. For more details on specific types of contaminants, click here.
If you suspect your drinking water became contaminated you should immediately switch to alternative water source until it's confirmed otherwise.
After performing necessary tests to determine what contaminants are present, you will need to treat your water in a way specific to the contaminant present. Click here to obtain information on a number of different sources explaining treatment options for specific contaminants. In case of ongoing contamination, you may need to develop and implement customized treatment system or make a permanent transition to alternative drinking water source. For a list of local water treatment businesses, click here.
If your household is a part of public water system than public utility is required to maintain drinking water quality up to the federal and state standards and test it for you (look at last tab for more info about quality standards of public water).
If your water comes from a well, water supplies should be tested for bacteria and nitrates at least once a year. Tests for other contaminants (arsenic, iron, manganese, hardness, hydrogen sulfide) should be made regularly (every three years or so). Events that occur near your drinking water well may indicate a need to have additional tests performed on your water. If your well is located near a fuel oil spill (this would also include any petroleum products), it would be advisable to have your water tested for Volatile Organic Chemicals
(VOCs). A less expensive test, the BTEX (Benzene, Tolulene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene) test, will also detect the presence of spilled fuel oil. Have your water supply checked if you have drilled a second well or changed the pump or plumbing. Also have the water supply tested if there is new, or increased activity in your area that has the potential to contaminate a water supply.
For more information on this topic go to Water Testing and Interpreting Your Results (DEC) (pdf)
Unfortunately at this time Inletkeeper cannot test your drinking water for you since it needs to be done in state certified laboratory in order to obtain reliable results.
In order to find a certified laboratory go to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s list of certified laboratories. The laboratories certified to perform chemical analyses you can find here and for the laboratories certified to perform microbiology analysis of drinking water you should go here.
Depending on where you live and what you need tested, there may be several options. Calling each potential lab will help you to find out who will best fit your needs.
The cost of the water tests depends on the contaminants you are requesting to be analyzed. Basic bacterial testing starts at around $50 and tests that cover basic health concerns (bacteria, nitrates & arsenic) costs around $150. More sophisticated analysis like heavy metals or pesticides/herbicides will cost more and the price will depend on the laboratory you choose. Call laboratories directly to find out their pricing structure and don't forget to ask for bundle pricing for multiple tests.
Interpreting your water quality results can be challenging. Here is a very helpful video on how to understand your well water test results created by Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you would prefer to read up on this topic, go to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation website, or download this pdf document to get all necessary info.
There are hundreds of public water systems throughout the communities of Cook Inlet. In Alaska, the Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) oversees public water systems throughout the state. All public water systems are required to test their water for contaminants, including bacteria and metals such as arsenic. Public water sources that serve at least 25 year-round residents are required to publish a water quality report annually, which can be requested by contacting the utility, city, or tribe. If you would like to learn more about ADEC public water system program click here.