Well Water Testing Analysis and Contamination in MA and NH – Sulfate in Water

The twelfth and final post in our series highlighting some of the contaminants that can be found in water wells. Northeast Water Wells is available to collect samples and test your well water for contaminants anytime.

If you have a private well, regular water quality testing is very important. Northeast Water Wells recommends testing your well at least every two years. Many contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well has changed.

What is Sulfate?

Sulfate is a combination of sulfur and oxygen, and is part of naturally occurring minerals in some soil and rock. The mineral dissolves over time and is released into groundwater. Sulfur odor is produced when a non-harmful sulfur-reducing bacteria digests a small amount of the sulfate mineral.

What are the health effects of Sulfate?

The EPA considers sulfur a secondary water contaminant, with no direct threat to human health. Sulfate gives water a bitter taste and can have a laxative effect that may lead to dehydration. Sulfate has a Secondary Maximum Contanimant Level of 250mg/l. As a precaution, water with a sulfate level exceeding 400mg/l should not be used in the preparation of infant formula. Infants are often more sensitive to sulfate than adults.

Can sulfate cause other problems?

If sulfate in water exceeds 250 mg/L, a bitter or medicinal taste can make the water unpleasant to drink. High sulfate levels may also corrode plumbing, particularly copper piping. In areas with high sulfate levels, plumbing materials more resistant to corrosion, such as plastic pipe, are commonly used.

How can sulfate be removed from water?

Three types of treatment systems will remove sulfate from drinking water: reverse osmosis, distillation, or ion exchange. Water softeners, carbon filters, and sediment filters do not remove sulfate.  Water softeners merely change magnesium or calcium sulfate into sodium sulfate, which is somewhat more laxative. If both a water softener and a sulfate removal system are used, the water softener is usually placed before the sulfate removal system.

Northeast Water Wells offers a variety of testing packages to take care of all of your water needs. Call today to set up a time for us to collect a sample of your water. All of our testing is done through a state certified analytical lab.

If you live in Massachusetts you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here

If you live in New Hampshire you can view the guidelines for Well Water Testing here

Article written by Karen Provencher, Northeast Water Wells