GIMME SHELTER- Water woes: Test well before you sign

Ed Schroeder, Commonwealth H2O Services Inc.

 Q: We're buying a new house and want to be sure our water supply is clean and healthy. Is there anything we should check for or have installed?  

A: With so many houses being built in the county, there's a big concern these days about well water. Too often people buy houses and then find out later the water is terrible. That's because well water in the area is heavy with iron, low in Ph, and contains a variety of hardeners, including compounds of calcium and magnesium, which can eat away at metal and require you to use more soap or detergent when washing dishes or laundry. By the time many homeowners call us, their water has already stained their toilets, sinks, and showers, or has begun to emit an unpleasant odor.

In a perfect world, water treatment systems would be thought of as just another appliance and be part of the mortgage contract; just like the fridge, range, and dishwasher. While most reputable builders consult a water treatment professional the minute they have water under pressure, many don't. During the inspection phase, a test for colliform bacteria is mandatory for occupancy, but tests for other harmful or unpleasant compounds in your water supply are not. 

That's why it's important to get a complete water test before you buy a house with a well. If you have to put in a water treatment system after you move in, it could cost you between $1,500 and $5,000. Be sure to discuss water quality with your realtor or builder before you sign on the dotted line. 

If you're thinking about a house in the City, we recommend an osmosis drinking water system that goes under the sink and has a separate faucet. It can also be hooked up to the water dispenser on the fridge. Charlottesville does a very good job of treating its water, but they can't catch everything, and it's loaded with chlorine. The osmosis system filters out solid matter down to one microbe, removes dissolved solids, and has a carbon filter that removes chlorine and organic matter. In fact, these systems remove 90 to 95 percent of all impurities. Systems are available online for between $300 and $400.

Ed Schroeder