We test for material dissolved or, in the case of bacteria, suspended in the spring water based on the capabilities at our institution. Most of the components that we can measure occur naturally due to the interaction between rainwater and the soil and/or bedrock. Whether or not a component is a hazard to human health can be complex so we provide federal and state guidelines used for municipal water systems for your comparison. Below are summary descriptions for some of the components we measure. An Excel file with the full dataset is available at this website.
Chloride (Cl-) is a naturally occurring element and is common in the shale that makes up much of the bedrock in central New York. It can be an indicator of road salt contamination in higher concentrations. (WHO)
Fluoride (F-) occurs naturally in water after interaction with fluoride-bearing minerals. In small amounts it helps prevent tooth decay. Excessive exposure over time can promote bone fractures. In children under the age of 8 overexposure can promote pits in tooth enamel. (EPA)
Nitrate (NO3-) is an essential nutrient for plants and is a main component of agricultural fertilize. It is often found in natural waters and leafy vegetables. The EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) for municipal drinking water is 10 mg/l. Excessive intake of nitrate can be hazardous, particularly for infants. According to the EPA “Infants below six months who drink water containing nitrate in excess of MCL could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome.” (EPA)
Phosphate (PO43-) is naturally found in rocks and minerals and is an essential nutrient for plants. In higher concentrations, it can be an indicator of agricultural runoff as it is a component of natural and synthetic fertilizers. In New York State, excess phosphate in surface water can lead to algal blooms and eutrophication. According to the EPA, “The health effects of drinking water with phosphates are not known.” (EPA)
Sulfate (SO42-) is a natural component in the sedimentary bedrock of central New York. Because it is highly soluble in water, it is commonly found in natural water. There are little to no adverse health effects within the threshold limit. In concentrations between 1000-1200 mg/L sulfates can cause diarrhea and thereby dehydration. (WHO)
Atrazine is a common herbicide that is part of the triazine herbicide group. It is a known endocrine disruptor which has negative effects on hormonal regulation and reproduction in amphibians (National Academy of Science). Concentrations rarely reach levels that are carcinogenic or disruptive to humans in drinking water (EPA). The NYS maximum concentration for atrazine in drinking water is 0.003 mg/L.
Coliform bacteria represent a large group of naturally occurring bacteria. While coliform bacteria alone may not be dangerous for consumption they indicate the possibility of contamination by more specific and harmful bacteria, i.e. fecal coliform and E. coli. Therefore, their presence in drinking water is not tolerated in municipal water. Symptoms of disease causing bacteria include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. E. coli, in extreme cases, “can cause severe illness and death.” (Penn State)