Water Quality

Why test my water?

There are many reasons to test the quality of water in your home well including, compliance with government regulations for drinking water systems,  determining if the water is potable for peace of mind or real estate transactions, evaluating the need for and/or the effectiveness of water treatment systems and determining the presence of suspected environmental contaminants.

Analysis for water quality at Paracel

Paracel Laboratories Ltd. can test for many elements and compounds in water, including metals, minerals, organic compounds and bacteria.  Paracel is a fully accredited facility for water analysis.  Paracel is also licensed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for the analysis of specific elements and compounds in drinking water. Paracel can test water from private homes, businesses, government agencies and drinking water systems that fall under the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act and its associated regulations 170/03, 243/07, 318/08 and 319/08. Refer to our Service page for regulated Drinking Water System Information.

How long does it take to get results?

Paracel standard turnaround time is 4 business days. While rush service may be available for an additional fee, some analyses are limited by the analytical method to how long it takes for results. For example Total Coliform and E. Coli require an incubation period of 24 hours. Contact the laboratory for your specific turnaround time requirements.

Collecting samples for analysis

Sample collection techniques and containers vary depending on the type of testing required. The most common types of sample collection for homeowners are described here. Regulated Ontario drinking water systems must be supplied with specific sample collection documents – contact laboratory.

Bacteria testing (Total Coliform and E. Coli for Potability)

  1. Samples for bacteria testing must be collected in a sterile bottle provided by the laboratory or the public health unit. Do not open the bottle before you are ready to collect the water sample.
  2. Remove all filters or aerators from the faucet. Use a tap normally used for drinking.
  3. Carefully clean the end of the tap with a clean cloth and a small amount of bleach.
  4. Turn on the cold water, do not use hot water, and let it run for 3 to 5 minutes before taking a sample.
  5. Open the bottle and keep the lid in your hand but do not touch the inside of it. Fill the sample bottle to the fill line if using a round public health lab bottle or to the shoulder of the bottle if using a lab supplied square bottle. Do not rinse the bottle.
  6. Once collected re-cap the bottle and keep it cold but not frozen until delivery to the laboratory. Sample may be stored in refrigerator until delivered to the lab. Use a small cooler and icepack to keep the sample cool during transit, especially during the summer months. Sample must be delivered to the lab within 24 hours of collection.
Lead testing

It is recommended to collect both a standing and flushed sample for analysis.

  1. Use a tap that is normally used for drinking water. There should be a minimum of 6 hours since the last time the tap was used until the time the collection process starts. Do not remove aerators from the tap.
  2. Record the time of the start of the sample collection.
  3. Turn on the cold water, do not use hot water, and immediately collect a full 1 Litre plastic bottle with the first water that comes from the tap. Do not overflow or rinse the bottle. Label this bottle as “Standing”.
  4. Allow the tap to run for 5 minutes.
  5. Turn off the tap and allow to sit unused for 30 to 35 minutes.
  6. Turn the tap back on and collect a second 1 Litre sample as above and label it as “Flushed”.
  7. Samples should be submitted to the laboratory as soon as possible after collection but do not require refrigeration or cooling during shipping.
General Chemistry and other analyses

The laboratory can supply the bottles required for a general chemistry package or any other specifically requested tests. Some tests may require additional sampling instructions. These will be supplied as required.

  1. Use caution when opening and sampling with bottles that come pre-charged with preservatives as many are corrosive. Wear gloves and wash hands thoroughly after use.
  2. Use a tap that is normally used for drinking water. Aerators do not need to be removed unless testing for volatile compounds such as Hydrogen Sulphide or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
  3. Record the time of the start of the sample collection.
  4. Turn on the cold water, do not use hot water, and allow the tap to run for 5 minutes.
  5. Fill the bottles provided to the shoulder leaving a minimal amount of air space at the top. The exception to this is when sampling for Hydrogen Sulphide or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which require the containers to be filled to the top. Specific instructions will be provided when sampling for these compounds.
  6. Bottles should not be rinsed, especially if they contain any preservatives in them. Avoid contact with the preservative, if any, in the bottle as some of them are corrosive. Specific handling precautions will be included with those bottles.
  7. Once collected re-cap the bottle and keep it cold but not frozen until delivery to the laboratory. Sample may be stored in refrigerator until delivered to the lab. Use a small cooler and icepack to keep the sample cool during transit, especially during the summer months. Sample must be delivered to the lab within 24 hours of collection.

Available Test Packages

The following is a listing of the common analytical packages performed for homeowners. Contact the laboratory for any testing requirements not listed here.

Microbiology     

Package

Parameters

Bacteria EC/TC

E. Coli and Total Coliform – basic Potability test.

Bacteria HPC

Heterotrophic Plate Count

Chemistry

Package

Parameters

Package #1

pH, Hardness, Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Iron, Total Dissolved Solids

Package #2

Package #1 plus Alkalinity, Conductivity, Potassium, Manganese, Fluoride, Chloride, Nitrate, Nitrite, Sulphate

Package #3

Package #2 plus Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Boron, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Lead, Selenium, Uranium, Zinc, Tannin/Lignin

Tannin/Lignin

Add to package #1 or #2 when analyzing to determine water treatment requirements and there is a yellow colour to the water.

Sulphide

Hydrogen Sulphide – rotten egg smell.

Lead

Standing and Flushed samples for lead.

Mercury

Mercury

VOCs by P&T GC-MS

Scan for 20 volatile organic compounds, including those indicative of solvent or fuel contamination.

What do my results mean and how can I treat my water?

To help understand your lab results, the following downloadable document provides a description and the maximum allowable concentrations of each parameter listed under the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards.

Water Quality Parameters and Descriptions

Paracel does not advise on water treatment nor promote any particular water treatment company. It is recommended that you take your results to at least 2 or more local water treatment companies for recommendations on how to address any particular water quality issue.

If your water sample indicates significant bacterial contamination, refer to the Public Health Ontario’s Well Disinfection Tool for procedures to chlorinate and disinfect your well.

Public Health Ontario Well Disinfection Tool:

http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/ServicesAndTools/Tools/Pages/Well-Disinfection-Tool.aspx

Additional information

Please refer to the Web Links below for further information.  Alternatively, inquiries can be submitted by completing the Information Request Form located on this web page. Our Service Team is available to answer any questions that you may have regarding your analytical requirements.

Links

Health Canada – Drinking Water:

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/water-eau/drink-potab/index-eng.php

Ontario Ministry of Environment – private wells:

http://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/wells-your-property

Public Health Ontario:

http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/ServicesAndTools/LaboratoryServices/Pages/Water-testing.aspx

US EPA – Drinking Water:

http://water.epa.gov/drink/