Where to test your water in Indiana

Everyone should have their water tested for bacteria, nitrate, and lead when they move to a house with a private well, and at least every few years after that. Although other contaminants have the potential to contaminate your ground water as well, bacteria, nitrate, and lead are the most common and can be tested for a reasonable cost. Testing for those three ranges from a few dollars up to $30 or so (each parameter) in some labs, while testing for pesticides is likely to cost more. 

If you are on a public water system ("city water"), the water system is required to test the water regularly. Unless you have a reason to suspect contamination, or live in an older home and suspect lead from your house’s piping may be contaminating the water, you should not need to test the water yourself.

The Indiana State Department of Health Laboratory (ISDH) will test private well water samples for $10 (+$6.50 shipping and handling) for the following parameters:

  • Bacteriology -  To determine if the water is bacteriologically safe for drinking purposes. 

  • Fluoride/sodium: Sodium is important for those on low sodium diets, fluoride is important in the prevention of dental caries

  • Total Nitrate-Nitrite:Nitrate is particularly a concern for infant feeding because infants are sensitive to nitrate.

To have your water tested, you must used the "Water Test Kit Order Form" which is the last form listed at t t http://www.in.gov/isdh/24550.htm (direct link to the form (Microsoft Word) is https://forms.in.gov/Download.aspx?id=74). Fill out the bottom table of the form, called "Unregulated/Unmonitored" (for your home). Enclose the fee and mail the address included. You will receive the test kit, which consists of sterile bottles, a mailer, and instructions. Call 317-921-5874 for more information.

To find Indiana laboratories that test for other contaminants, the most up-to-date source of information is maintained by the Indiana State Department of Health. At this web site, select "certified chemistry laboratories" to find labs that test for parameters such as copper, lead, mercury, nitrate, fluoride, pesticides and other synthetic organic chemicals, or volatile organic chemicals. Select "certified microbiology labs" to find labs that test for E. coli or other bacteria.  We have collaborated in the past with Heidelberg College Water Quality Labs to test private wells in Indiana for pesticides, metals, nitrates, and other contaminants. You may wish to contact them about their testing program and prices.
  The Extension publication WQ-1, Water Testing Laboratories, provides a map and contact information for the labs as well. It was last published in 1999, so some information may have changed. It is available in pdf format at http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/WQ/WQ-1-W.pdf

"Do-it-yourself" water test kits are also available at stores. We do not have additional information on the reliability of these tests beyond what is provided by the manufacturer. Since they are very low-cost, they may serve well as a "screening test". The most reliable are likely to be the kits where you pay a fixed price ($10 to $15) for a kit that includes testing at a certified laboratory.

Well Disinfection

If your well tests positive for bacteria, one recommended solution is to shock chlorinate the well and plumbing systems.
Follow this informative guide on well disinfection from IDEM.

Purdue Extension For additional information, contact Jane Frankenberger,
Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Purdue University